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West Side Story goes to Queen’s Hall tomorrow

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The upcoming production of the Broadway classic musical West Side Story marks the return of production company Must Come See Productions to the theatre landscape of T&T after a four year hiatus. The show runs from June 21 to 24 at Queen’s Hall, St Ann’s.

Co-producer and musical director Jessel Murray said West Side Story is the musical version of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, set in America in the 1950s with the Montague and Capulet families replaced by warring gangs, the Puerto Rican Sharks and the American Jets. The main characters Tony (Romeo) and Maria (Juliet) belong to these warring factions.

Murray explained: “At its core, the musical is the story of Tony and Maria who become lovers, even though they are from different backgrounds, with all of the tensions that surround such a match. It does not help that Tony is part of a gang and that Maria’s brother is from a rival gang. It all build up to one fateful night. One has to see the musical to find out what happens next.”

The cast is comprised of some well-known as well as up-and-coming members of the musical theatre genre in T&T, including Zayna McDonald as Maria, Kyle Richardson as Tony, Michailean Taylor as Riff, newcomer Albert Smith as Bernardo, Syntyche Bishop as Anita, and Chris Smith rounds out the impressive cast as Doc.

The production is directed by Lecturer and Co-ordinator of Theatre Arts at the Department of Creative and Festival Arts (DCFA), UWI St Augustine, Louis McWilliams. Murray is a UWI Senior Lecturer and head of the DCFA. DCFA Co-ordinator of Dance Sally Crawford-Shepherd is the choreographer, and Dara Jordan-Brown is the scenic designer.

The veteran team of Donna-Marie Bertrand and Asha Stewart will stage manage the production. Murray said: “I have watched, with pardonable pride, a fully engaged and talented cast drawn from current DCFA student, alumni, and community members come together to produce high quality work. The production team, of which I am a part, is really pushing the cast to be the best possible.”

Murray will also be conducting the fully professional live band, and said the music and dancing in the play have been very exciting to work with. “The music is a mixture of Latin rhythms and jazz, quite complex and so enjoyable. Musicals are about acting. I would like the audiences to feel the tension, the drama, the joy of the work and to embrace the sophisticated music by Leonard Bernstein. This type of music in a musical is a cut above many other types of musicals and is not for the faint-hearted performer but contains some of the best known musical pieces such as Maria, Somewhere, America and Tonight. Of course, I wish them to enjoy our big Latin dance numbers, which are critical to the success of the work as well.”

Murray had attempted to stage the play in the US in 1999, but was not able to due to concerns about the stereotypical manner in which Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans were portrayed. However, Murray said he has not had a similar experience here in T&T. “There has been no such consideration whatsoever in Trinidad,” said Murray. “Persons are embracing the artistry of this work with its messages of love amidst intolerance and the other issues of different segments of the society battling for space.

“Perhaps, there are lessons contained in the play which are pertinent to our current times, but I decline to identify them. I do hope that persons who view the musical will determine what message is inherent to them and will embrace the work on their own terms.”

Tomorrow’s premiere performance is scheduled for 7 pm, while the Friday and Saturday performances start at 7.30 pm. There will be two Sunday performances: a matinée at 2 pm and an evening performance at 7 pm.

More info

Tickets for West Side Story cost $250 to $300 for General seating with special prices for Seniors/Students and are available at the Queen’s Hall Box Office, 624-1284 and the Department of Creative and Festival Arts, UWI (Gordon Street, St. Augustine), 272-DCFA (3232).

For more information, find Must Come See Productions and West Side Story on Facebook.


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