"West Side Story" comes to Adler Monday

Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2013, 11:56 am
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By Jonathan Turner, jturner@qconline.com

Something great is coming to Davenport, as thetour of the hit Broadway revival of "West Side Story" will be performed at the Adler Theatre (136 E. 3rd St.) on Monday at 7:30 p.m.

Tony Award-winning librettist Arthur Laurents' Broadway direction is recreated for the tour by David Saint, the associate director on Broadway. The original Jerome Robbins choreography is reproduced by Tony Award-nominee Joey McKneely ("The Boy from Oz," "The Life").

The powerful 1957 tale of star-crossed lovers Tony and Maria, as they struggle to rise above the hatred and intolerance that surrounds them, "West Side Story" most recently was revived on Broadway from March 19, 2009 to Jan. 2, 2011, and is the longest-running, most successful version of the show to play Broadway to date.

The Leonard Bernstein-Stephen Sondheim score is considered to be one of Broadway's finest and features such musical theater classics as "Something's Coming," "Tonight," "America," "I Feel Pretty" and "Somewhere."

The Associated Press said the show "remains Broadway's best dance-driven musical. Five decades have not dimmed the extraordinary choreography or the score that pulsates throughout." Variety wrote: "The true stars of 'West Side Story' are Jerome Robbins' graceful, endlessly expressive choreography and Leonard Bernstein's score, which still sounds bracingly modern a half-century after it was first heard. The music is a primal force."

"West Side Story" was the first musical propelled by dance, by choreography that moved the plot forwardand conveyed emotions that the rival gangs (Jets and Sharks) were incapable of verbalizing, according to a show summary. It was the first show in whichevery member of the chorus had a name and a clearly defined character.

The original production ran for 21 months, went out on tour, then returned toBroadway for an additional seven and a half months, losing the Tony for Best Musical to "The Music Man."The 1961 movie – which Mr. Laurents disliked -- was a critical and commercial success, therecipient of 10 Academy Awards, including Best Picture. The film also brought widespread popularity to thescore: the Grammy-winning soundtrack was No. 1 on Billboard's album charts for 54weeks.

The 2009 revival wove Spanish lyrics and dialogue into the English libretto for the first time. The translations are by Tony Award winner Lin-Manuel Miranda. In August 2009, some of the lyrics for "A Boy Like That" ("Un Hombre Asi") and "I Feel Pretty" ("Me Siento Hermosa"), which previously were sung in Spanish in the revival, were changed back to the original English.

"This is a tougher, more real production of 'West Side Story,'" an FAQ for the revival says. "Also, dialogue that dated the show and made it seem stuck in the 1950s has been removed. The Puerto Rican characters sometimes sing and speak in Spanish, which not only gives them more authenticity, but reflects the sounds of New York City today. As a result, the timeless universality of the show is felt as powerfully and with as much relevance now as when it was first written."

Mr. Laurents -- who died in 2011 at 93, also having written "Gypsy" and the film "The Way We Were" -- said that allowing the Puerto Rican Sharks to express themselves in the way they actually would talk (mixing English with Spanish) "would empower them as characters and result in a deeper emotional impact for the audience."

In many productions of "West Side Story," the Jets feel like the heroes. "By giving the Sharks their language, it levels the playing field," the FAQ says. "It also reinforces and amplifies the huge divide between the two gangs. It also is one of the ways to make the show feel less like a period piece and more universal, set in no specific time period at all."

However, this is not a bilingual production as the majority of the dialogue and lyrics are in English.In Act 1, there are a number of lines in Spanish, and in Act 2, "I Feel Pretty" and "A Boy Like That" are both sung in about 50/50 English-Spanish.

If you go

-- What: "West Side Story"
-- When: 7:30 p.m. Monday.
-- Where: Adler Theatre, 136 E. 3rd St., Davenport.
-- Tickets: $39.50, $52 and $62, available at ticketmaster.com, 800-745-3000, all Ticketmaster outlets and the Adler box office. Discounts are available for groups by calling 563-326-8522.


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