West Side Story brings cast of nearly 100 to Lyric stage

West Side Story brings cast of nearly 100 to Lyric stage
Mikaela Bennett_Corey Cott_WEST SIDE STORY_Lyri…d Rosenberg.JPG from Shelby Homiston (Lyric Opera, Chicago) © Todd Rosenberg Photography 2019

Saturday night in a fully packed Lyric Opera house, the tragic story of of Tony and Maria 's unforbidden love played out in magnificent style as the Lyric rolled out their Spring Musical--which has become a highly anticipated tradition--this being its seventh year.

With a cast of nearly 100 artists and musicians, the Lyric’s coproduction brings a new energy and scale to West Side Story while still keeping the original 1957 story in tact.

Brett Thiele_Adam Soniak_WEST SIDE STORY_Lyric O…d Rosenberg. © Todd Rosenberg Photography 2019

Brett Thiele_Adam Soniak_WEST SIDE STORY_Lyric O…d Rosenberg.
© Todd Rosenberg Photography 2019

The original Broadway production of "West Side Story" opened September 26, 1957 at the Winter Garden Theatre. It ran for two years and 732 regular performances before it closed June 27, 1959.

Conceived, directed, and choreographed by Jerome Robbins with co-choreography by Peter Gennaro, written by Arthur Laurents, music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, "West Side Story" put onstage the Manhattan of the era—a Manhattan teaming with gang violence and warring cultures.

Lyric Opera Chicago West Side Story Dress Rehearsal. Photo: Todd Rosenberg © Todd Rosenberg Photography 2019

Lyric Opera Chicago
West Side Story Dress Rehearsal. Photo: Todd Rosenberg
© Todd Rosenberg Photography 2019

Way ahead of its time, the story brought home what was happening in the streets and continues to stir audiences even now over a half a century later.

Sadly, although we've made some inroads, the iconic Romeo and Juliet like story along with the gangs and prejudice on the backstreets of New York still resonates in today's world.

Through the years, I have seen the show both on stage and in film and it never fails to captivate me both with its magnificent songs including “Tonight,” “America,” “I Feel Pretty,” “Maria,” "Somewhere," "Gee, Officer Krupke," "A Boy Like That" and more and its story.

The Lyric production-- a coproduction with Houston Grand Opera and the Glimmerglass Festival--is one of the best that I have seen both in scale and production.

Tony and Maria, Photo: Todd Rosenberg

Tony and Maria, Photo: Todd Rosenberg

"West Side Story" with its operatic overtones suits itself beautifully to the Lyric with a cast that is near perfection from Mikaela Bennett (Maria), the Puerto Rican teenager whose pitch-perfect voice is beautiful on its own and even more exciting when she pairs with the amazing tenor Corey Cott as Tony.

The choreography that features the original by Jerome Robbins, recreated for Lyric by Julio Monge is produced in the grand scale of the Lyric Opera that in a word is magnificent.

Photo: Todd Rosenbery West Side Story Dress Rehearsal © Todd Rosenberg Photography 2019

Amanda Castro as Anita
West Side Story Dress Rehearsal
© Todd Rosenberg Photography 2019

The production, driven by dance doesn't miss a beat, with its formidable ensemble  along with principles Amanda Castro (Anita) and Manuel Stark Santos (Bernardo) all providing exceptional performances.

Whether you're a first timer or a veteran of many West Side Stories, the Lyric production is worth the price--if you can still get tickets. Sadly, the show must close June 2 and many shows are already sold out.

 "West Side Story"

Review: “West Side Story” (4 stars)
When: Performances run through June 2, 2019
Running time: 2 hours, 30 minutes
Tickets: $39-$219 at 312-827-5600 and www.lyricoperachicago.org

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