March 6th, 2016

wss revival somewhere by openingsong

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Carnegie Hall's West Side Story, Staged in a Queens Warehouse with Skylar Astin and Newcomer Morgan Hernandez, is a Musical Miracle

By Paul Wontorek

There’s nothing like a multi-million dollar slick staging of a classic Broadway musical featuring the best acting talents available and the greatest creative team money can buy. Then again, seeing the same classic on a high school or community theater level can prove just as exhilarating, with raw, wide-eyed talents giving the material a freshness that’s undeniable. The Carnegie Hall production of the Weill Music Institute staging of West Side Story, set in a warehouse in Queens called the Knockdown Center for just one weekend, offers the best of both worlds and for this 57-year-old icon of a show, the results are nothing short of miraculous.

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The Sharks and the Jets are still rumbling, on a long jet runway of a stage, and the Leonard Bernstein/Stephen Sondheim score still throbs and pulses like the New York City of our dreams, especially played by a full orchestra led by music director Marin Alsop and music supervisor Leslie Stifelman. But this isn’t your grandpa's West Side Story. For one, hip hop choreographer Sean Cheesman has added new choreography to the show, which also features much of the original Jerome Robbins dance, recreated for the space by Julio Monge, a Broadway vet who actually danced as a Shark under Robbins’ eye in Jerome Robbins’ Broadway. For fans of the original, it’s jolting to see sequences like the Dance at the Gym conceived with a new eye, but Cheesman’s work fits beautifully into Robbins’ and has a modern twist that's vital to this new production’s success.
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wss revival somewhere by openingsong

(no subject)

Review: Carnegie Hall’s ‘West Side Story’ at the Knockdown Center

By CHARLES ISHERWOOD

The headlong energy of youth was on ample — no, make that spectacular — display over the weekend in Maspeth, Queens, at the Knockdown Center, a former factory where a wonderfully energized, energizing production of “West Side Story” was presented for just three performances, under the auspices of Carnegie Hall and the Weill Music Institute.

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A culmination of the Somewhere Project, a citywide exploration of that classic 1957 musical that began in January, the production mixed professional actors with 15 high-school-aged apprentices in the cast, supplemented by a whopping chorus of 200 high school singers from 26 schools representing all five boroughs. Conducting the lush 40-piece orchestra was the eminent Marin Alsop, music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, who was once a protégée of Leonard Bernstein, the composer of “West Side Story,” of course.

The site was fitting for this nontraditional but nevertheless faithful production, which essentially dispensed with sets and featured simple, contemporary costumes by Tracy Christensen. The show was performed on a long, rectangular stage made to resemble a strip of roadway — a drag strip, you might say — with the audience seated on three sides, some at tables and some in bleacherlike seating.
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