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'West Side Story' has love and war
'West Side Story' has love and war
By SUE HOFFMAN
The Jets and Sharks gangs and their girlfriends will rumble, dance and sing some of Broadway's familiar melodies when the Solon High School drama club performs "West Side Story" April 14 to 17 in the school auditorium.
"My favorite part is the rumble," said Dan Henderson, a sophomore who's sharing the role of Sharks leader Bernardo with senior Zachary Davidson. The scene pits Bernardo against Jets leader Riff, performed on alternate days by juniors Kirk Eichelberger Jr. and Stephen Kersey. While the blades aren't sharp, the two gang leaders have to "stay in control and stay safe," Dan said. The scene has taken special training in stage combat and intense practice.
The rumble is one of many challenges in producing one of America's most beloved musicals, according to director and drama club adviser Kristina J. Ferencie.
"We want to do justice to Jerome Robbins' vision," she said, and the upcoming production uses his original choreography and staging. "It's incredibly challenging, but we have the talent to do it. It's been a real learning experience for the students."
"West Side Story," written by Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim, had its original Broadway run in 1957 and has had numerous revivals, including one now on tour. The film version, released in 1961, won 10 Academy Awards, including best picture.
"The movie version has the original choreography adapted to the screen," Ms. Ferencie said. "Our production includes iconic moves our viewers will clearly recognize from the movie. Mr. Robbins really wanted to change how musical stories were told. It starts with dancing, with a focus on ballet. To see the teens execute this and execute it well is very exciting," she said.
"'West Side Story' is such a favorite of so many people," Ms. Ferencie said. "If you know the basics of 'Romeo and Juliet,' you know the story."
She said five lead roles have been double cast in the production that features 63 students on stage.
Set in the 1950s on the west side of Queens, N.Y., the show spotlights tensions between the Sharks, from Puerto Rico, and the Jets, comprised of teens from the white working class. Tony, one of the Jets, played by juniors Zach McCulley and Steven Gazdag, falls in love with Maria, Bernardo's sister, who's performed by senior Lindsay Simon and sophomore Dani Apple.
"Maria is my dream role," Dani said. "I've wanted to play it ever since I saw the show. The part is very dynamic. It's everything I wanted to play in one package." The vocal range is perfect, she added. Her favorite song is "I Have a Love," she said. "Every time I sing it, I want to cry, because it's so beautiful."
Maria Williams said the role of Anita is likewise her dream performance. "When I first saw the movie, I'd imitate the dances she did. I loved how much passion she had," she said.
Kirk said his role as Riff involves some of the heaviest dancing in the show. "It's so much fun to learn the choreography and give it my spin. It's great we're doing the original choreography. It's even greater to make it ours," he said.
There's also drama, he said. Riff wants to keep everything the way it has been. "So when Bernardo comes to town," he said, there's trouble.
Famous songs from the show include "Something's Coming," "Tonight," "Maria," "Cool," "Gee, Officer Krupke," "America," "One Hand, One Heart," "I Have a Love" and "Somewhere."
Others cast members include: William Kraizel, as Action; Noah Fromson, Baby John; Sam Roitblat, A-Rab; Austin Robertson, Diesel; Robbie Gerhart, Big Deal; Patrick Plucinsky, Snowboy; Chris Chehade, Chino; Ryan Ho, Pepe; Cameron Mintz, Lt. Shrank; Eric Kapusta, officer Krupke; Brianna Razzante, Anybodys; Natalie Kreft, Glad Hand; Elysha Rothenberg, Rosalia; Abby Butts, Consuelo; Chelsea Guest, Graziella; Marissa Ho, Velma; Melissa Cartellone, Minnie; and Ross Simpson, Doc.
The production staff includes: Gary Lewis, musical director; Kristy Cruz, choreographer; Joseph M. Ferencie, production designer; Gerald MacDougall, pit director; Gwendolyn Scott, rehearsal accompanist; and Steven J. Madden, fight choreographer.
Allison Burko and Rebecca Eidnier are production stage managers, and Lauren Biales Wise and Nora Husani are assistant stage managers. Dance captains are Jessi Butts, Kirk Eichelberger Jr., Brianna Razzante and Sam Roitblat.
Performances are 7:30 p.m. April 14, 15 and 16 and 2 p.m. April 17. Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for students and senior citizens. Solon senior citizens are admitted free with proof of residency. For tickets, call the box office at (440) 349-6249.
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