The Triangle - The Independent Student Newspaper at Drexel University

Beloved musical returns from behind the curtain

In a tribute to the musical theater classic, the immensely popular “West Side Story” returned to the stage and captivated audiences at the Kimmel Center’s Academy of Music from March 27 to April 8.

The original 1957 Broadway production was based on Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” and was originally conceptualized and choreographed by Jerome Robbins. Based on the book of the same title by Arthur Laurents, it features music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. The first production opened Sept. 26, 1957 at the Winter Garden Theatre, receiving positive reviews after a month of tryout performances in Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia.

The overwhelmingly popular film adaptation of the same title was released October 1961. The film was directed by Robbins and Robert Wise. It stars Natalie Wood and Richard Beymer as Maria and Tony. It was a critical and commercial success, receiving 10 Academy Awards.

The Academy of Music was buzzing with anticipation and high expectations. The show did not disappoint, capturing the audience’s attention with high-energy dance sequences and romantic scenes that sizzled against the magnificent backdrop.

Directed by David Saint with reproduced choreography by Joey McKneely, the latest theater production was reminiscent of the immensely popular film adaptation while staying faithful to the original 1957 stage version. Ross Lekites and Evy Ortiz star as the beloved Tony and Maria in this classic story of love, betrayal and sacrifice.

Filled with unexpectedly risque moments and excellent comedic timing, the cast brought the story to life in a way both familiar and fresh to an undoubtedly faithful audience.

There are many notable distinctions between the stage and film productions, including variations of song placements. “Gee, Officer Krupke” appears in act 2 of the stage version and was originally intended to provide comic relief following the deaths of Bernardo and Riff. In the film version, this song is considered incongruent with the dark, post-rumble mood and is swapped with act 1’s “Cool.” Additionally, “Somewhere” is accompanied by a full ballet sequence in the stage version, which is eliminated in the film.

The original Broadway production closed in 1960 after nearly 1,000 performances and a successful national tour. Robbins brought “West Side Story” back to Broadway in 1980 for a 300-performance run that spurred a Tony nomination for Best Reproduction (Play or Musical).

The 2009 revival, directed by Arthur Laurents, opened March 19 at the Palace Theater. This production finds Laurents’ original book subtly modernized, as he integrates more Spanish into the dialogue and lyrics and enhances the character of the gang members. The show closed after a successful first national tour and nearly 800 performances.

Philadelphia is just the first stop on the 2009 revival’s second tour. The show’s seven-city journey began at the Academy of Music March 27, where it ran until its final performance on April 8.The tour continues in Milwaukee and will reach destinations such as the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark, N.J. and the Toronto Center for the Arts in Canada. The tour will conclude its journey at the Durham Performing Arts Center in North Carolina.

The Kimmel Center has announced its crowd-pleasing 2012-13 Broadway lineup, which will include “War Horse,” “The Addams Family” and “Sister Act,” along with exclusive presentations of “Wicked” and “Les Miserables.”