image001-1Can love happen at first sight? It certainly can if you're Tony and Maria in West Side Story. Inspired by William Shakespeare ‘Romeo and Juliet, Arthur Laurents wrote the award-winning adaptation of the classic romantic tragedy in 1957. Only with a Latin beat! This timeless musical is set in the Upper West Side neighborhood in New York City in the mid1950s where it explores the rivalry between two teenage street gangs of different ethnic backgrounds and a doomed love story between a Puerto Rican girl and an All –American boy.

West Side Story the musical ran for 732 performances and then toured nationally making it one of the most performed productions in American history. The 1958 Tony Awards included five Best Musical nominees. Hollywood came knocking an in 1961 the American romantic musical drama film hit the silver screen. The tragic love story was nominated for 11 academy awards, and it won ten, including Best Picture.

The Lyric Opera of Chicago brought one theatrical play to its patrons and that was 'West Side Story,' the tale with a dark theme, urban music, great dance scenes and awesome singing from the Mikaela Bennett which focuses on social problems in America which are still relevant today.

Lyricist Stephen Sondheim, composer Leonard Bernstein, writer, director, and screenwriter Arthur Laurents and Jerome Robbins were like a formidable dream team. These four giants in the industry created a musical masterpiece. Sondheim, who took passages of dialogue and turned them into songs, while Bernstein moved songs around to serve the writer, director and screenwriter Laurents vision of the story. Choreographer and director Jerome Robbins created the choreography that advanced the story, instead of embellishing it. Together they brought life from the stage into the soul of the audience.

5/2/19 3:58:12 PM -- Chicago, IL Lyric Opera Chicago West Side Story Dress Rehearsal © Todd Rosenberg Photography 2019

This timeless story of the explosion of love prevailing despite the battling of two rival gangs trying to gain control of the streets still brings joy to watch and the Lyric Opera of Chicago made this performance of West Side Story, a night to remember. The members of the Sharks, led by Bernardo (Manuel Stark Santos) who is from Puerto Rico, is continuously taunted by a rival white gang called the Jets. Led by Riff (Brett Thiele), the hatred between to two gangs are so intense that neither one is willing to coexist.

Love, at first sight, is looming in the air where two worlds will collide at the neighborhood dance where ex-gang member Tony falls in love with bridal shop worker Maria (Mikaela Bennett), the sister of Bernardo (Manuel Stark Santos). Their passion becomes inevitable, as they secretly meet, to make plans to run away to marry. However, the plan goes wrong and before Tony and Maria know what happens tragedy strikes.

West Side Story at the Lyric Opera was astoundingly beautiful where the show moves seamlessly from one scene to the next with a design set that drops you right into New York City street life. Interchangeable parts of the set take you to a rundown apartment building where the fire escape scene is equivalent to the balcony scene of Romeo and Juliet.

All of the cast was great in this production; which included Corey Cott as Tony, internationally renowned dancer, singer, and actress Amanda Castro as Anita; Broadway mainstay Brett Thiele as Riff and renowned actor both on and off Broadway Manuel Stark Santos as Bernardo. However, we can't say enough about the phenomenal voice of Mikaela Bennett, a recent graduate of The Juilliard School in New York, who performed on Chicago's own WTTW. This Lincoln Center Award-winning for Emerging Artists voice is heavenly.

5/2/19 3:24:26 PM -- Chicago, IL Lyric Opera Chicago West Side Story Dress Rehearsal © Todd Rosenberg Photography 2019

West Side Story is a classic story of racial differences and undying love over hate which can be seen all over the world today. Tony seeking to defend his turf against Bernardo, is symbolic to today's border walls dilemma and Riff unwavering belief that Tony will not abandon him when he needs him the most, is what we see on Fox, CNN and MSNBC and the White House daily.

Leonard Bernstein's score for West Side Story includes some favorites such as "America," Gee, Officer Krupke," The Jet Song", "Maria," "Something's Coming", "Tonight", "Cool", "One Hand, One Heart", "I Feel Pretty", "Somewhere", and "A Boy Like That."

Let's Play ‘Highly recommend' that you experience ‘West Side Story' at The Lyric Opera of Chicago. Is just the place for you to enjoy this iconic Tony-winning Broadway musical!

Lyric Opera of Chicago Presents
Based on the conception of Jerome Robbins
Now through June 2, 2019

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