Husband and wife Bob Richard and Diane Laurenson are director, choreographer for Matunuck production.
By Channing Gray
Journal Arts Writer
SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — The husband and wife team of Bob Richard and Diane Laurenson took a break the other day from rehearsing Theatre By The Sea's upcoming production of "West Side Story," which has to be their favorite show.
The couple met on the set of the classic Leonard Bernstein musical 22 years ago in Sacramento, California, when they both played Jets, Diane taking on the role of Anybodys.
"We toured together for two years," said Richard, "and when it was over we didn't want to lose our best friends, so we got married."
Then, 20 years later, after decades of going their separate ways as much sought-after choreographers, the couple mounted their first collaborative "West Side Story," with Richard directing and Laurenson providing the dance moves.
Theatre By The Sea owner Bill Hanney saw reviews of the show, which were positive, and brought the couple on board to put together a "West Side Story" that opens in previews in Matunuck Wednedsay. In the fall, they will take the show to Hanney's North Shore Music Theatre in Beverly, Massachusetts.
"West Side Story" is a big part of our life," said Richard. "And it brought me to my wife."
Richard is new to directing, making his debut with "West Side Story." Before that, the couple has choreographed on Broadway and all over the globe.
Richard said choreography is a lot like directing; it's just the story is told through dance.
"There's a fine line between directing and choreographing in the show," added Laurenson, because Arthur Laurents' book is so closely blended with Jerome Robbins' dance numbers.
Although the director gets the final say, she said, to which Richard replied, "That's the first time that has happened."
Even though there is some give-and-take in putting together the classic musical, Laurenson said she and her husband share the same vision.
Richard says the word he uses to describe the show is "legacy." Laurenson worked with the original "Anybodys" and they both sat at the feet of the legendary Robbins, who choreographed the original production.
"So you have to honor that. It's the legacy that has lasted," she said.
"If you go completely outside the box you risk destroying this masterpiece," said her husband.
There is, of course, a little leeway. The cast is allowed to be creative within Richard's and Laurenson's parameters.
We'd love to do other shows collaboratively," said Richard. We each have 35-years-plus experience, but feel we are just beginning. It's a new chapter for us."
"West Side Story" opens in previews Wednesday and runs through July 16 at Theatre By The Sea, 364 Cards Pond Rd, South Kingstown. Tickets are $47-$67. Call (401) 782-8587, or visit theatrebythesea.com.
On Twitter: @Channing_Gray