by BWW News Desk
Dueling street gangs, howling police sirens, and forbidden love prove to be as powerful and poignant as ever as one of the most iconic musicals of all time explodes onto the stage in Grand Bend with sensational dancing and soaring voices. Featuring an all-star cast, West Side Story will play a limited run at the Huron Country Playhouse from June 7 to June 23.
Given the current socio-political climate, the ambitious Broadway musical, which is essentially a racially-charged retelling of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, seems like a timely effort from Drayton Entertainment, one of Canada's largest not-for-profit theatre companies operating seven theatres in Ontario including two stages in Grand Bend.
"West Side Story is undoubtedly one of the greatest musicals of all time," says Alex Mustakas, Artistic Director of Drayton Entertainment. "The heartfelt characters, dramatic story, spectacular dance sequences and unforgettable music have captivated theatregoers around the world for decades, and we know our audiences in Southern Ontario are going to love it."
Star-crossed lovers Tony and Maria find themselves caught in a turf war between rival gangs - the Puerto Rican Sharks and the American Jets - as they dream of being together in a world without prejudice in New York City's derelict Upper West Side during the turbulent 1950s.
The score by revered composer Leonard Bernstein and lyricist Stephen Sondheim is widely regarded as one of the best ever written and includes famous songs like "Maria," "I Feel Pretty," "Somewhere," "Tonight," "America," and more. The story by Arthur Laurents touches upon immigration, police and community relations, and gun violence, while also offering a poetic love story for the ages. The urban musical is also famous for its signature athletic choreography originally created by Jerome Robbins.
A stellar cast has been assembled for this epic love story including Amber Tomlin as Maria, the young immigrant girl who falls in love with American boy, Tony, and David Cotton as Tony, the conflicted former leader of the American Jets gang who finds his allegiance torn between newfound love and long-time friendship.
Anthony MacPherson is Tony's best friend Riff, the quick-tempered leader of the American Jets, who seeks to eliminate the Sharks and establish his own gang's dominance. Dani Jazzar is Bernardo, the proud leader of the Puerto Rican Sharks and Maria's protective older brother, with Louise Camilleri as Bernardo's vivacious girlfriend Anita, who seeks to protect Maria from the Americans.
The America Jets gang also includes Drew Plummer as Action, Colin Sheen as A-Rab, Brett Taylor as Big Deal, and Jesse Weafer as Baby John. Krysta Leis is Anybodys, a spirited tomboy who desperately longs to be a member of the Jets. Among other roles, Ashley St. John and Jennifer Thiessen are Jet Girls Velma and Graziella.
The Puerto Rican Sharks gang also includes Graeme Goodhall as Toro, Alex Kelly as Pepe, Andrew Taylor as Indio, and Darren Burkett as Chino, who is betrothed to Maria. Among other roles, Shelley Kenney, Judy Kovacs, and Christine Watson are Shark Girls Francisca, Rosalia and Consuela, respectively..
Larry Mannell is Doc, the kindly owner of the store where the Jets hang out. Brad Rudy is Detective Shrank and Aaron Walpole is Officer Krupke, brash policemen controlling the ongoing gang war.
Veteran director Max Reimer is at the helm of this timeless classic. He is joined by esteemed international choreographer Lisa Stevens, Music Director Mark Camilleri, Set Designer Samantha Burson, Costume Coordinator Jessica Pembleton, and Lighting Designer Jason Hand.
Originally produced on Broadway in 1957, West Side Story was an instant success winning two Tony Awards for Best Choreography and Best Scenic Design. The 1961 film adaptation starring Natalie Wood won ten Academy Awards including Best Picture - the most Oscars ever awarded to a musical. A brand new film version is set to be released in 2019 directed by Steven Spielberg.
West Side Story marks the launch of the theatre season at the Huron Country Playhouse in Grand Bend. The summer theatre mecca will present nine shows in 2018 expanding its standard summer offerings into the fall shoulder with a dazzling Canadian premiere production of The Irving Berlin classic Holiday Inn on stage in September.
The complete 2018 Season in Grand Bend includes: West Side Story (June 7 - June 23), Kings & Queens of Country (June 13 - June 30), Cruisin' Classics (June 27 - July 7), Cinderella: The Panto (July 5 - July 22), Canada 151: Better Late Than Sorry (July 12 - Aug 4), Out of Order (July 25 - Aug 11), Disney's The Little Mermaid (Aug 9 - Sept 2), The Birds and The Bees (Aug 15 - Sept 1), Irving Berlin's Holiday Inn (Sept 13 - Sept 30).
For more information, visit www.huroncountryplayhouse.com. Tickets may be purchased online, in person at the Huron County Playhouse, or by calling the Box Office at (519) 238-6000 or toll free at 1-855-drayton (372-9866).