Reimagining ‘West Side Story’ With Voices From Across New York
By CORINNA da FONSECA-WOLLHEIM
A sharp winter sun filtered into the Knockdown Center, a former factory turned art space in Queens, on a recent afternoon as Skylar Astin and Morgan Hernandez enacted the bridal shop mock-wedding scene from “West Side Story.”
“Make of our hands one hand,” the young actors sang as they stood on the narrow stage. In “West Side Story,” with music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, “One Hand, One Heart” is a hymnlike duet of arresting tenderness, an expression of a hope that will ultimately be dashed by racial tension and cultural mistrust. But as Mr. Astin (“Pitch Perfect”) and Ms. Hernandez (a freshman at the Boston Conservatory) continued to hold hands, dozens of teenagers solemnly flooded the stage. As they joined in, singing “Make of our hearts one heart,” what had begun as a duet about a personal connection became a choral affirmation of collective healing.
There are many novel touches to this new production of “West Side Story” that Carnegie Hall is presenting on Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Knockdown Center. The choreography by Jerome Robbins, familiar to many from the 1961 movie version of the musical, is supplemented by Sean Cheesman’s new choreography, which draws a bridge to contemporary urban culture. With its two rows of bleachers hugging the catwalklike stage, the show offers an unusually immersive experience to audience members. ( Collapse )