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A fresh look and new performers who bring this story to life

Though Steven Spielberg has done a fine job with his redo of the classic 1961 film, West Side Story, nominated for seven Academy Awards, there’s something to be said for seeing this classic musical live on stage.

It will simply take your breath away.

Marriott Theatre has created a new twist to this production, with a fresh look and new performers who bring this story to life.

Based on William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, West Side Story is the tale of star-crossed lovers on the Upper West Side of Manhattan in the 1950s. Its underlying themes are just as timely today.

Gang rivalries create tension in the hood between the Sharks and the Jets over who controls the turf. Hate, racism, and violence give way to tragedy and sorrow on both sides of the fence.

Based on the book by Tony Award winner Arthur Laurents, music by Tony and Grammy Award winner Leonard Bernstein, and lyrics by Tony, Grammy, Pulitzer, and Academy Award winner Stephen Sondheim, West Side Story is a trifecta of creative excellence.

You know all the tunes of Bernstein’s brilliant music, such as Tonight, I Feel Pretty, America, and Somewhere.

Critically-acclaimed and award-winning veteran of the stage Victor Malana Maog directs the Marriott’s production, beautifully capturing its passion and power.

“West Side Story has been a dream project of mine,” said Maog. “This production celebrates the joy of gathering around a remarkable classic and understanding the duty to make all these characters – the Jets and Sharks – as whole and human as we possibly can in 2022. What a pleasure to bring this masterpiece to life.”

Musical direction is by Jeff Award winner Ryan T. Nelson and choreography is by Jeff Award nominee Alex Sanchez.

Lauren Maria Medina, who plays an exquisite Maria, is making her Marriott Theatre debut. She has the voice of an angel with pipes big enough to completely fill the stage. One only hopes we will be seeing more of her.

Also making their debuts are Jake David Smith as Tony, who wins our hearts with his good looks and strong vocals, and Vanessa Aurora Sierra as Anita, who sings and dances her way into the stratosphere.

Mention must be made of Marisa Fee as “Anybodys,” whose gender issues are much more realized in this production. Originally a tomboy, the character appears with the rest of the girls in a ballet, wearing a gown, a strong departure from the original.

Jeffrey D. Kmiec’s set design makes wonderful use of the in-the-round stage with a realistic depiction of a fire escape and other urban settings to reflect the cold, stark reality of the neighborhood.

Kudos to costume designer Amanda Vander Byl for her realistic 1950s costumes and, of course, musical supervisor Patti Garwood and her orchestra that plays the haunting score to perfection.