BWW Preview: WEST SIDE STORY Comes to the Arts Asylum in Kansas City
West Side Story opens the fifth season of productions for Spinning Tree Theatre in Kansas City, Missouri, running August 20 through September 5. The musical production will be staged at The Arts Asylum located at 1000 E. 9th Street in Kansas City. The Arts Asylum was established to provide assistance, studio, and gallery space for a variety of artists.
Inspired by William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, West Side Story combines the music of Leonard Bernstein with the libretto/lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. Jerome Robbins provided the conception and choreography with a book by Arthur Laurents.
Set in the mid-1950's West Side Story delves into the rivalry of two teenage street gangs, the Sharks from Puerto Rico and the Jets, a Caucasian gang. Tony, a former member of the Jets, falls in love with Maria, the sister of Bernardo, leader of the Sharks. According to Wikipedia, "The dark theme, sophisticated music, extended dance scenes, and focus on social problems marked a turning point in American musical theater."
Stephen Sondheim made his Broadway debut with the 1957 production of West Side Story. The musical ran for 732 performances before taking the show on tour. The production earned nominations for six Tony Awards, Robbins winning for Best Choreography and Oliver Smith for scenic design. The fabulous musical score by Bernstein includes "America," "I Feel Pretty," "Tonight," and "A Boy Like That" among others.
Michael Grayman and Andrew Parkhurst direct the Spinning Tree production, with an all-local cast recreating the choreography of Robbins. Grayman and Parkhurst first met in Milan, Italy in 1998 on the 40th anniversary European tour of West Side Story, staged by original cast member Alan Johnson. Grayman had just completed the 40th anniversary Broadway tour, supervised by Robbins and Laurents, and subsequently performed the show at the Boston Conservatory and Music Theatre North. Parkhurst performed the show at the North Shore Music Theatre, in a German-language production in Augsburg, Germany, at Starlight Theatre in 2000, and the Tennessee Repertory Theatre.
The 30-member cast includes Megan Herrera as Maria, with Jacob Aaron Cullum as Tony, Vanessa Severo as Anita, and Kip Niven as Doc. Gary Green (Broadway's Master Class opposite Patti LuPone and Faye Dunaway) provides the musical direction.
West Side Story runs at the Arts Asylum August 20 through September 5. Ticket prices range from $30 to $42.50, and seating is limited. Purchase tickets by calling 816-569-5277 or at the Spinning Tree Theatre website. Photo courtesy of Spinning Tree Theatre.