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Eklund Opera Presents Timeless and Timely WEST SIDE STORY

Eklund Opera Presents Timeless and Timely WEST SIDE STORY

The University of Colorado Boulder's Eklund Opera Program will present Leonard Bernstein's iconic "West Side Story" in Macky Auditorium Oct. 26-28 as part of the CU Bernstein at 100 celebration.

"West Side Story" reimagines Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" in 1950s New York City. Two star-crossed lovers from different backgrounds fight to keep their relationship alive in the midst of a bitter rivalry between the Sharks and the Jets, a pair of gangs vying for their own pieces of Manhattan.

"This is a story about people-mostly children of immigrants, like most of us-who have claimed a territory as their own. New groups who look different and have different cultures migrate to new cities. And they are treated as the enemy," said Stage Director and Director of the Eklund Opera Program Leigh Holman.

When "West Side Story" premiered in the '60s, the historical context was clear: U.S. citizens from Puerto Rico migrated to New York City in exponential numbers after World War II, causing a shift in cultural norms in Manhattan. But Assistant Director Javier Abreu believes the tensions shared onstage are still timely.

"It really can be applied today to the ways we relate to people," said Abreu. "It's a story about trying to accept the things we don't understand and seeing the value in things that are different from what we know."

"It's such a humanistic approach to [performing] the show," fellow Assistant Director Erin Hodgson agreed. "It's really easy in this show to say, it's [Sharks] versus [Jets] and these are the bad people, but no one is really at fault here. This is just the situation that everybody's stumbled into, and this is how this group of people is dealing with it."

"Never before-since the '60s when the film came out-has there been a more important story for us to hear and see," said Holman.

For fans of the story looking to dive deeper into its background, audiences are invited to several free CU Bernstein at 100 events in anticipation of Eklund Opera's production of "West Side Story."

On Oct. 21 at 2 p.m., Holman will be joined by film historian and Chair of the Department of Cinema Studies & Moving Image Arts Ernesto Acevedo-Muñoz-author of the only scholarly book on the film-for a brief presentation on the challenges of adapting "West Side Story" to the screen. Piano professor and Bernstein specialist Andrew Cooperstock will also join to discuss the movie's impact, popularity, controversy and longevity with American audiences. Immediately after, at 3 p.m., audiences are invited to attend a free screening of the film. Finally, there is a free discussion and first look at the Eklund Opera production on Oct. 24 at noon.

Tickets for all performance dates available online.

PHOTO: Christine Honein (as Maria) and Patrick Bessenbacher (as Tony) in Eklund Opera's "West Side Story" (Credit: Glenn Asakawa/CU Boulder)

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