The ground-breaking West Side Story, which made its world premiere at the National Theatre in 1957, returned to that Washington, DC, landmark Dec. 15 when previews began for the Broadway-bound revival under the direction of the show's librettist, Tony winner Arthur Laurents.
The classic Leonard Bernstein-Stephen Sondheim-Laurents musical will play the National through Jan. 17, 2009. Opening night in DC is scheduled for Jan. 7.
Following the National engagement, the production will begin previews at Broadway's Palace Theatre Feb. 23, 2009, with an official opening scheduled for March 19.
Heading the cast are Matt Cavenaugh (A Catered Affair, Grey Gardens) as Tony, Karen Olivo (In the Heights) as Anita, Cody Green (Movin' Out) as Riff and George Akram ("Stuck on You") as Bernardo. Twenty-one-year-old Argentinean actress Josefina Scaglione, who created the role of Amber Von Tussle in the Argentinean production of Hairspray, co-stars as Maria.
The large cast also includes Steve Bassett as Lt. Schrank, Kyle Brenn as Boy Soprano, Joshua Buscher as Diesel, Mike Cannon as Snowboy, Kyle Coffman as A-Rab, Joey Haro as Chino, Eric Hatch as Big Deal, Curtis Holbrook as Action, Michael Mastro as Glad Hand, Danielle Polanco as Consuela, Jennifer Sanchez as Rosalia, Lee Sellars as Krupke, Tro Shaw as Anybodys, Ryan Steele as Baby John and Greg Vinkler as Doc along with Madeline Cintron, Lindsay Dunn, Matthew Hydzik, Marina Lazzaretto, Chase Madigan, Kaitlin Mesh, Pamela Otterson, Sam Rogers and Amy Ryerson as The Jets and Isaac Calpito, Haley Carlucci, Peter John Chursin, Yurel Echezaretta, Manuel Herrera, Yanira Marin, Mileyka Mateo, Kat Nejat, Christian Elán Ortiz, Michael Rosen, Manuel Santos, Michaeljon Slinger and Tanairi Sade Vazquez as The Sharks. The production features scenic designs by James Youmans, costumes by Tony Award nominee David C. Woolard, lighting by Tony Award winner Howell Binkley, hair by Mark Adam Rampmeyer and sound design by Tony Award nominee Dan Moses Schreier.
This staging of West Side Story introduces "the unprecedented element of selectively weaving Spanish throughout both the book and songs," according to a previous announcement.
Laurents, who earned solid reviews (and a 2008 Tony nomination) for staging the current Broadway run of Gypsy, stated, "This show will be radically different from any other production of West Side Story ever done. The musical theatre and cultural conventions of 1957 made it next to impossible for the characters to have authenticity. Every member of both gangs was always a potential killer even then. Now they actually will be. Only Tony and Maria try to live in a different world…"
West Side Story has music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and a book by Laurents. The staging retains the original choreography of late director Jerome Robbins, who conceived the project by using Romeo and Juliet as inspiration. The Robbins choreography has been restaged by Tony Award nominee Joey McKneely (The Boy from Oz, The Life).
This West Side Story boasts an onstage cast of 37 and 30 musicians in the orchestra pit.
"West Side Story transports the achingly beautiful tale of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet to the turbulent streets of the Upper West Side in 1950's New York City," according to the producers. "Two star-crossed lovers, Tony and Maria, find themselves caught between the rival street gangs of different ethnic backgrounds, the 'Jets' and the 'Sharks.' Their struggle to exist together in a world of violence, hate and prejudice is one of the most heart-breaking, relevant and innovative musical masterpieces of our time."
Its landmark status has to do with its serious subject matter, and its sophisticated integration of dance, song and book.
The Bernstein and Sondheim score features such classics of the American musical theatre as "Something's Coming," "Tonight," "America," "I Feel Pretty" and "Somewhere."
Robbins won the Tony Award for his groundbreaking choreography, and Oliver Smith took home the prize for Best Scenic Design. It was nominated as Best Musical but lost to The Music Man.
West Side Story will be produced on Broadway by Kevin McCollum, James L. Nederlander, Jeffrey Seller with Terry Allen Kramer, Sander Jacobs, Freddy DeMann, Roy Furman, Robyn Goodman/Walter Grossman, Hal Luftig, Roy Miller and Broadway Across America.
Tickets for the musical's out-of-town engagement are available by visiting Telecharge.com.
Tickets for the Broadway production are available by visiting Ticketmaster.com or by calling (212) 307-4100.
West Side Story ran for 732 performances before launching national and international tours and a run at London's Majesty Theatre in 1958. It played a brief "return engagement" on Broadway in fall 1960.
The first New York City revival of the musical opened on April 8, 1964 at New York City Center by the New York City Center Light Opera Company. The production closed on May 3, 1964 after a limited engagement of 31 performances. The City Center production was staged by Gerald Freedman based on Robbins' original concept.
A Broadway revival opened at the Minskoff Theatre on Feb. 14, 1980, directed and choreographed by Robbins with the assistance of Tom Abbott and Lee Becker Theodore. The revival was nominated for a 1980 Tony Award for Best Revival as well as nods for Debbie Allen as Anita and Josie de Guzman as Maria.
The motion picture, directed by Jerome Robbins and Robert Wise, was released in 1961 and starred Natalie Wood and Richard Beymer. The film won ten Academy Awards out of its eleven nominated categories (including Best Picture) as well as a special award for Robbins.