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WEST SIDE STORY: STILL MAKING MAGIC ON STAGE

BY RYAN M. LUÉVANO

West Side Story is unlike any other musical. Generation after generation, it stands the test of time both in admiration and in the message it relates: hope heals and hate destroys. This beloved musical was created by the juggernauts of the industry: Arthur Laurents (book), Leonard Bernstein (music), Stephen Sondheim (lyrics) and Jerome Robbins (conception and choreography) and took the world by storm when it landed on Broadway in 1957. If that wasn’t enough, it was adapted to a film in 1961, winning ten Academy Awards including Best Picture. Now La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts carries on the tradition in its own magnificent production of this classic, melding past and present in this sparkling revival.
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Interview: Media's Anita of WEST SIDE STORY VICTORIA GUITERAS MAYO

by Pati Buehler

We caught up with this original Springfield Pa. resident who seems to have live arts in her family. (Mom (director/choreographer), Dad (opera singer), Aunt (actress).
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INTERVIEW: Tyler Michaels on West Side Story and His New Theatre Company

by Basil Considine

Somali gangs in Minneapolis might get all the press, but the City of St. Paul is about to get its very own gang problem. Well, kind of – the Jets and Sharks of West Side Story are set to occupy the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts from April 4-16. This classic musical is being produced as a collaboration between the Ordway and the Teatro del Pueblo, and engages with gang rivalries, immigration tension, and other themes that remain surprisingly relevant today.

In this production, Tyler Michaels plays Tony, a former Jets member who is swept back into the violence and falls tragically in love with Maria (Evy Ortiz). Basil Considine sat down with Tyler Michaels to discuss his acting career, his new theatre company, and returning to the role of Tony.
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This past Sunday,  a friend/neighbor of mine and I had the pleasure of driving up from Somerville, to Lowell, MA, for a special Sunday afternoon screening of the film West Side Story, at the Luna Theatre, up in Lowell, MA (which is a blue-collar city roughly 45 minutes from Boston and Somerville.  After eating a light lunch at a place in Lowell called Brogans (which is an Irish-Mexican Bar and Restaurant), we both walked up to the theatre, at the other end of the street. The Luna Theatre, which is located in a building that used to be a large mill, is a very small (it has 80 seats) but cute movie theatre, with comfortable seats, and tables.  It has a small-ish, but not a super-small screen, and  it, too,  is a perfect place for showing West Side Story and other classic filmsRead more...Collapse )



Since it was a very pleasant and sunny day here in the Bay State, it was an enjoyable drive, and we left early enough so that we didn't have to battle a great deal of traffic along the way.  Since this was the first theatrical showing of the film West Side Story that I'd seen since I'd had cataract surgery on both of my eyes earlier this year,  I remembered my brother having told me after both surgeries, "The next time you see West Side Story, it will be brilliant!"   Well, my brother was right; the colors in the film  West Side Story  definitely did seem even more brilliant and intense, and I enjoyed it more than ever. There were parts of this particular print of the film that were somewhat darker, and where there colors were even more intense, but that made an already fabulous film even more interesting.



Although the movie theatre was not completely filled, there was a good crowd, nonetheless, which indicated that West Side Story   is still popular, as a film, as well. As always, I smiled at the more exuberant parts, laughed out loud at the funnier parts, and sort of woo-hoo-ed when Riff (played by Russ Tamblyn) did his back-flips into the air, during the  Dance at the Gym scene. I also found myself on the edge of my seat during the really intense parts of this film, and misted up towards the end, in the I Have A Love  scene, after the deaths at the Rumble, where both the gangleaders, Riff and Bernardo, are stabbed to death.



The multi-colored Overture, where the white lines finally turn into buildings of Lower Manhattan, and then the aerial views of the West Side of Manhattan, followed by the gradual zeroing in on the finger-snapping Jets is a good omen of what this great movie/musical will be, and it never fails to live up to its promise to be what it is.  Some people will argue that Natalie Wood and Richard Beymer, who play the romancing Tony and Maria in the film version of West Side Story  are too bland, too phony, plastic, and obvious, at least in part because their singing voices are both dubbed (Richard Beymer's singing by Jimmy Bryant, and Natalie Wood's singing voice by the late Marni Nixon), and because they're both considered too wooden for the parts of Tony and Maria, but I disagree somewhat, at least in part, due to my intense love for the film  West SIde Story, I am willing to overlook the dubbing that occurs in this film.



Yet, at the same time, I often wonder if Tony and Maria would've completely overshadowed everybody else (i. e. the warring European-American Jets and the newly-arrived Puerto Rican Sharks, as well as Lt. Schrank, Doc, and Ofcr Krupke, if other actors had been chosen for Maria and Tony.  In the America scene, when the Shark guys were brought in along with the Shark girls, that scene was really brought to the heavens, as Rita Moreno pointed out in one interview, during a Premiere showing of the film  West Side Story.



The late Elvis Presley (yup, you all read right!) was the first person that the late Director, Robert Wise, approached for the role of Tony in the film version of  West Side Story.  Elvis was forced to turn it down, due to an over-controlling manager/agent and was said to have regretted turning down the role of Tony after the film West Side Story became a hit.



I wonder how Elvis Presley would have made out in New York's Hollywood of that day, due, at least in part, to his heavy southern accent. He could sing, and he definitely had the tough-but-tender look, and the personality of an ex-gang member  It might've been interesting to have Elvis Presley play the part of Tony, but I also wonder if that would've turned West Side Story into just another Elvis Presley movie, or if Elvis Presley, as Tony, would' just simply overshadowed everybody else in the film.  That's hard to know, isn't it?



Anyway, my friend and I had a wonderful afternoon, and it was great to see another screening of a great, golden oldie-but-keeper of a classic movie-musical.

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