Created by award-winning Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim, Jerome Robbins and Arthur Laurents
It’s the late 1950s and this is Hell’s Kitchen. The streets of New York City belong to two rival gangs, the Jets and the Sharks, and their feud is about to reach a fever pitch. The Actors’ Repertory Theatre of Simi’s production of West Side Story rumbles to life on the Debbie Reynolds MainStage of the historic El Portal Theatre in North Hollywood.
You know the moment the Jets, led by Riff (Nick Meyer), come cruising onstage against the Sharks, led by Bernardo (Marco Antonio Sariñana) why this is considered one of the greatest musicals of all time. Action, comedy and, above all, the love between Tony (Jeff DeWitt) and Maria (Tina Hartell), elevate this show to mythic proportions rarely attained in musical theatre.
Based on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, West Side Story, with book by Arthur Laurents, music by Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, the show remains relevant even today.
It was cutting-edge in the 1950’s to include the racial division of Puerto Rican gangs vs. American gangs. Today little has changed and, in fact, gang problems loom larger than ever. It isn’t hard to draw parallels between the Sharks and Jets with the modern gangs of Los Angeles. And when the Sharks sing lyrics about hurricanes and having no electricity on their island home, one can’t help but think of the current situation in Puerto Rico.
Which isn’t to say that this is a political play—far from it. It’s a love story for the ages. The duet on the fire escape is often cited as perfect musical theatre, as love transcends race in “Tonight.” But their love cannot take place in the real world, and they dream of a place where there are not racial boundaries in “Somewhere.”
Jan Glasband and Caroline Esposito, co-directors of this epic musical, create a production that leaves the audience singing all the way home. Becky Castells deftly choreographs the large cast (no small feat), giving a nod to the great Jerome Robbins while putting her own stamp on the dance numbers.
One of the biggest delights of the production is the accompaniment by a live orchestra conducted by Matt Park. Experiencing Leonard Bernstein’s music live alone is worth the price of admission.
Only five chances to see this iconic piece live!
This production is made possible by 3,000 Miles Off Broadway (Ron Kurtz, CEO) and Actors’ Rep Theatre of Simi.
Performances are Friday, May 11 at 8pm; Saturday, May 12 at 3 and 8pm and Sunday, May 13 (Mother’s Day) at 1pm and 5pm. Visit ElPortalTheatre.com or call the Box Office at (818) 508-4200 for a special Tolucan Times discount. The historic El Portal Theatre is located at 5269 Lankershim Blvd. in North Hollywood.