Rubicon's Musical Theatre Intensive to Present WEST SIDE STORY with 21-Piece Orchestra Next Month

Rubicon Theatre, a not-for-profit professional regional theatre company in Ventura, California, announces its production of WEST SIDE STORY (Book by ARTHUR LAURENTS, Music by LEONARD BERNSTEIN, Lyrics by STEPHEN SONDHEIM), to be performed by the students of the Education Department's MUSICAL THEATRE INTENSIVE, featuring at twenty-one piece orchestra conducted by DANIEL NEWMAN-LESSLER. This production is directed by BRIAN McDONALD, Musical Direction by MIRIAM ARICHEA and choreography is by CAROLANNE MARANO. Set and lights are designed by David King. Production Manager is Jessie Vacchiano, Stage Manager is Jon Stover.

The Musical Theatre Intensive is a five-week program designed to challenge serious musical theatre students in a professional setting. The program offers intermediate to advanced training in acting, singing and dancing. With supportive and nurturing guidance, the workshop encourages risk-taking and individual creative expression. The program culminates with two weeks of public performances.

"West Side Story is based on Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet and is one of the greatest, most beloved stories every told," says director Brian McDonald. "These students are incredible performers, and to be able to present this lush, iconic score with the full backing of a twenty-one piece orchestra is extraordinary. The actors get the invaluable thrill of singing with these amazing musicians, and the audience will get to hear all of the glorious intricacies of this score."

Conductor Daniel Newman-Lessler, continues, "Studying and conducting Bernstein's iconic score, which changed the face of all musical theatre thereafter, has been an immensely fun and challenging experience. Every song and number is memorable; there are no weak points at all. Bernstein creatively captures the American sound established by Gershwin and Copland and then fills it to the brim with the colors and rhythmic complexities of traditional Latin music from Spain, Mexico, Puerto Rico, etc. And then there are times where the music is pure Bernstein. I have learned so much from this amazing music and the talented and enthusiastic musicians I have had the honor of working with. We are so excited to share the fruits of our labors with our audiences!"

The Musical Theatre Initiative draws students from all over Ventura County. This year's production of West Side Story will feature students Abel Alderete, Torie Ball, Daniel Brackett, Gage Burgi, Michael Byrne, Luca Caliri, Troy Clevenger, Riley Conrad, Cassidy Craig, Anna Demaria, Natalie Graham, Jesse Graham, Jeremiah Gray, Parker Harris, A.J. Herrera, Kirsten Hoj, Kathleen Jarvis, Juliet Johnson, Zachery Meade. Sarah Mehrnia, Erin Mihalka, Mimi Mize, Jacob Mizraji, Kat Monzon, Ali Naranjo, Kevin Ochoa, Josh Ranck, Madeleine Riddle, Nichole Riffenburgh, Erin Snett, David White and Lucy Willhite.

The orchestra features Miriam Arichea (Musical Director/Piano), Cavit Celayir-Monezis (Reed), Drue Chermak (Trumpet), Dana Christie (Bass), Kevin Conahey (Drums), Sharon Cooper (Violin 1), Thomas Fredrickson (Trombone), Paul Hunt (Trombone), Randy Jones (Trumpet 1), Marcello Ma (Trumpet), Joe Martone (Percussion), Laura Mihalka (Cello), Bill Milton (Alto Sax), Franky Ohlinger (Violin 2), Ian Olson (Reed 3), Hans Ottsen (Guitar), Connor Rowe (Trombone), David Singer (Reed 2/Clarinet), Mariana Smith (Reed 1/Flute), Jonathan Snyder (Horn), and Bruce Walker (Alto Sax/Oboe).


BRIAN McDONALD (Director), a graduate of Boston Conservatory, appeared in the National Tours of Miss Saigon and Forever Plaid, directing the latter for various regional theatres, including Rubicon. Other Rubicon directing credits include Other Desert Cities, A Tuna Christmas (in which he also co-starred), The Sunset Limited, Bus Stop (five Ovation nominations including Best Play), Master Harold... and the boys (three Ovation nominations including Best Play, for which he earned an Indy Award and Stage Scene LA Award for Best Director); and the World Premiere musical Hello! My Baby, written and conceived by Cheri Steinkellner. He also conceived and directed the holiday musical revue A Rubicon Family Christmas Concert. Brian's work as a director began as assistant to Tony-nominated director Christopher Renshaw during his work on Queen: The Musical (a.k.a. We Will Rock You). Other directing credits include Tennessee Williams' Talk to Me Like the Rain and Let Me Listen, Hooters, Our Town, Little Women, Bye Bye Birdie, Urinetown, Godspell and The Drowsy Chaperone. As an actor, McDonald has appeared on the stages of the Denver Center, Theatre Virginia, The Lyric Stage, La Mirada Performing Arts Center, Ensemble Theatre Company, The Pasadena Playhouse, Thousand Oaks Performing Arts Center and the Ahmanson. LA Weekly honored Brian with the Best Supporting Actor Award for his performance as Gaveston in the Circle X production of Edward II directed by Michael Michetti.

MIRIAM ARICHEA (Musical Director) is known locally for her performances as a concert pianist and soloist with the Ventura College Symphony and the Channel Islands Chamber Orchestra. She was recently honored with the 2014 Mayor's Arts Award for Arts Educator. Miriam has collaborated with vocalists and instrumentalists in a variety of venues, including the Ventura Music Festival, the Ventura Master Chorale series, and the Ventura Unified Festival of Talent. It was through her work at Festival that Miriam began working with Brian McDonald and started to become involved with Rubicon Theatre productions. Miriam also directs the youth music program at her church, and has worked with the Ventura Unified School District choirs as well as the Camarillo Youth Theatre. A lawyer by training, Miriam received her undergraduate and law degrees at Duke University. She presently handles criminal appeals as a court-appointed attorney with the California Appellate Project. Miriam lives in Ventura with her husband Jeff Brackett and their children Josh, Arielle, and Daniel.

DANIEL NEWMAN-LESSLER (Conductor) From age four, Daniel has had a talent for playing the piano. While studying with Peter Yazbeck during his childhood and teen years, he won top prizes in numerous competitions, and repeatedly performed as a concerto soloist with the Thousand Oaks Philharmonic. Daniel received a Bachelors of Music in Piano from the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music, where he studied with Daniel Pollack, while also pursuing composition and conducting. He graduated magna cum laude from USC as a Discovery Scholar. Daniel has participated in numerous summer festivals as a conductor, pianist, and composer including the LA Conductors Workshop with Kenneth Kiesler, Oregon Bach Festival with Helmuth Rilling, International Summer Academy of Music in Germany, Franz Liszt Piano Academy in Hungary, and Idyllwild Arts Summer Academy. Currently, he is pursuing a Masters of Music in Sacred Music from USC, where he is studying with Nick Strimple. He is the conductor of the Kadima Conservatory Senior Philharmonic and PVSD Chorus and is the assistant conductor and accompanist of the Los Angeles Zimriya Chorale. Daniel is the pianist of the Singer Chamber Players, teaches piano at his studio in Somis, and regularly performs as a solo and collaborative pianist.

Performance schedule:

Thursday August 6 7:00 p.m.

Friday August 7 7:00 p.m.

Saturday August 8 2:00 p.m.

Saturday August 8 7:00 p.m.

Sunday August 9 2:00 p.m.

Sunday August 9 7:00 p.m.

Wednesday August 12 7:00 p.m.

Thursday August 13 7:00 p.m.

Friday August 14 7:00 p.m.

Saturday August 15 2:00 p.m.

Saturday August 15 7:00 p.m.

Advance Ticket Prices: $15.00 for children 12 and under, $20.00 for adults. If purchased at the door, tickets are $20.00 for children, $25.00 for adults. For tickets, call 805-667-2900 or visit

Rubicon's summer programs include the Stinky Feet Theatre Workshop (ages 5-10); the Fearless Shakespeare Intensive, the Musical Theatre Intensive, the Theatre Camp (ages 11-14), the Acting Intensive, Internships and Apprenticeships. Camps range from two weeks to five weeks and are taught or guided by professional teachers and actors from the Rubicon stage. Although all programs are process-oriented, each culminates with performances on the Rubicon stage with sets, lights and costumes. Programs presented publicly by young artists this summer include We Are Monsters (July 11), Disney's The Little Mermaid, Jr. (July 1 - 5), Hamlet (July 25-26) and West Side Story (August 5 - 15).

Acceptance to the programs is by audition and is based on talent, regardless of the students' ability to pay. More than 100 students from age 5 to age 22 are expected to participate in the 2015 program, with more than half of the students on full or partial scholarships based on financial need.

For more about Rubicon Theatre Company's education programs or summer show by and for young people, visit the Rubicon website at

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