Category Archives: West Side Story

Short and Sweet – An Audience View: West Side Story

West Side Story Company. © Carol Rosegg 2012

West Side Story Company.
© Carol Rosegg 2012

Broadway In Chicago is happy to introduce “Short and Sweet,” a quick view of our shows courtesy of Diana Martinez, who will give you the lowdown on Broadway In Chicago productions from the perspective of an audience member. Diana has more than 25 years of experience as an entertainment executive, most recently as President of The Second City. She has directed and produced over 40 live Broadway musical theatre shows and has presented more than 350 world-class Broadway national tours, dance, headline comedians and concert. We hope you enjoy this quick insight into our shows, and since this is all about our audience, share your own thoughts with us in the comments below.

West Side Story hits home in Chicago

Sitting in the theatre last night watching the opening of West Side Story at the Oriental Theatre, I couldn’t stop thinking about how timeless and relevant the messages of prejudice, gangs and senseless violence in this piece are. The show was written in 1957 and is possibly more meaningful today with news cycles blaring gang-related violence on a daily basis.  This opening night performance featured a young, scrappy and powerful cast that made the show very believable. This is not a glamourized “cookie cutter version” of West Side with over-the-top, glamorized satin costumes. This version is raw and honest, even sprinkling in a little Spanish, which helps to emphasize the roots of any cultural divide, which is usually based in a lack of mutual misunderstanding.

Dan Laura Kemper

Dan Laura Kemper

When you take one of the best scores in American musical theatre history and bring it to life with a cast that is fully committed it’s tough to go wrong. This passionate cast was deeply committed and gave it their all. I had two guest audience critics with me – Dan and Laura Kemper of Arlington Heights. When the intermission lights came up Dan looked at me and said, “I can’t believe how great the singing is.” An engineer by trade, he continued on with his appreciation for the set in it’s angular steel structural design and functionality. The production takes advantage of showing off this strong vocal ensemble with some fun and impressive vocal choices in “I Feel Pretty,” and a powerful “Tonight Quintet” near the end of Act One that delivers chills.

The opening night audience showed their wild appreciation for the spicy Michelle Alves who led the Shark girls in a fantastic and lively rendition of “America” with a show-stopping ovation. The cast is also graced with a beautiful, young and poised Maria (MaryJoanna Grisso) who has a gorgeous voice and solid connection with Addison Reid Coe, who plays Tony. The scenes where the two of them were alone stood strongest. They truly bring you back to the powerful feelings of innocence and passion only found in a first love.

I have seen this show several times in my career and the direction offers some nice, fresh variations with a gorgeous dream ballet in “Somewhere,” and fantastic comedic moments sprinkled in that truly enhance the scenes. Especially noteworthy is the opening scene led by Glad Hand, with his hysterical and miserable attempts to speak “Spanglish” in a failed attempt to be inclusive.

Somewhere around 1977 my mom brought me to see my first Broadway tour: it was another version of West Side Story this time at the Arie Crown theatre starring Leslie Uggams. When a nice usher offered to take me backstage and meet Ms. Uggams after the show, it was there that my love for musical theatre began. If you have a tween or teen this show will resonate deeply with them – don’t miss this chance to introduce them to this classic American musical theatre production and go see West Side Story at the Oriental Threatre. Trust me – it’s a gift they will always treasure. I know I did and it changed my life.

WSS program

1977 West Side Story program

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Guest Blog Post: Jeff M. Smith from West Side Story

Growing up in West Texas I never thought I’d find myself performing such an amazing show in such an unbelievable venue. The Oriental Theatre here in Chicago is a perfect place to see West Side Story.
Our company couldn’t be more excited to be performing here either! Even though we are in our last two weeks of a nine month run, being in Chicago has given us the second wind of the century and we couldn’t be more pumped up to knock these performances out of the park.
I can’t wait to walk the streets of this wonderful city and see what it has to offer! We always love playing cities with such a rich history, in theater specifically, but also in general – the architecture, the landmarks, the restaurants, the baseball! We can’t wait to check it all out.

West Side Story Company © Carol Rosegg 2012

West Side Story Company
© Carol Rosegg 2012

I studied Music and Theatre at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas. I can’t say my school is terribly well-represented in New York City, but Chicago is another story altogether. Opera singers, musical theatre performers, and straight theatre performers alike are all brought together in this great place!
Chicago brings our company of 33 cast members new challenges and adventures that we can’t wait to tackle. Come check us out!
-Jeff M. Smith (Snowboy, u/s Riff, u/s Tony, u/s Diesel)
www.jeffmsmith.net

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Filed under Broadway In Chicago, West Side Story

Happy Friday

Memorial Day weekend starts tourist season for those coming to Chicago  – you will want to see PETER PAN, the perfect summer experience for the whole family; WORKING, which only plays through June 5, CHICAGO The Musical, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, PINKALICIOUS  and the classic WEST SIDE STORY!

For those of you venturing to New York – you may want to check out PRISCILLA QUEEN OF THE DESERT. The show has a personal message for all of you.

Happy Memorial Day!

Eileen

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Filed under Beauty & the Beast, Broadway In Chicago, Chicago, Peter Pan The Show, Priscilla Queen of the Desert, West Side Story

A Broadway State of Mind

Broadway is hot this season with a lot of new shows. I have spent 12 of the past 14 days in New York with a team of people from Broadway In Chicago. Once a year we go to NY and meet with all the producers and presenters of Broadway across the country. We saw some amazing shows, many of which we hope will come to Chicago sooner rather than later, but we will let you know as they make their plans.

We met to discuss the current and upcoming productions of LOVE, LOSS, AND WHAT I WORE, LA CAGE AUX FOLLES, MEMPHIS, THE ADDAMS FAMILY, WEST SIDE STORY, WORKING and PETER PAN. We were also lucky enough to see:

PRISCILLA QUEEN OF THE DESERT

CATCH ME IF YOU CAN

SISTER ACT

WAR HORSE

THE BOOK OF MORMON

WONDERLAND

LOVE, LOSS & WHAT I WORE

HOW TO SUCCEED…

MEMPHIS

What are you hoping will come to Chicago?

Don’t forget to watch the Tony Awards on June 12 on CBS at 7 pm Central where the (record!) fifth Chicago Theatre will pick up a Regional Theatre Tony Award. Do you know which five theaters that have won?

In those two days between trips to NY, we attended the League of Chicago Theatres Gala where THE NEW COLONY received their 2011 Emerging Theatre Award.  Also saw the new Mayor inaugurated in Millennium Park.

There is no better place to be than CHICAGO!

Eileen

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Filed under Broadway In Chicago, Catch Me If You Can, Emerging Theater, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, La Cage Aux Folles, League of Chicago Theaters, Love Loss & What I Wore, Memphis, Peter Pan The Show, Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Sister Act, The Addams Family, The Book of Mormon, The New Colony, Tony Awards, War Horse, West Side Story, Wonderland, Working

what does the future hold

Hello from NY – what a weekend!

Sunday afternoon, I met Heather Schmucker, who we work with on a project that Broadway In Chicago is doing with American Musical Theatre Project at Northwestern. Together we saw GOD OF CARNAGE – produced by Stuart Thompson, who is also working on SHREK. All those stars on stage – Jeff Daniels, Hope Davis, James Gandolfini, Marcia Gay Harden – and a hilarious play! But the stars weren’t only on stage. Right next to me in the seat was Meg Ryan. Now that is a real bonus.

There are so many great shows that we are all hoping will tour and come to Chicago first or longest. Just a few:

What are you hoping for? At this point, all we can do is wait and see what develops.

-Eileen

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Filed under American Musical Theatre Project, Billy Elliot the Musical, God of Carnage, Hair, New York, Next to Normal, Rock of Ages, West Side Story

a marvelous weekend

I had the perfect weekend!

Friday Night – attended Tommy at Circle Theatre in Forest Park. The show was great and the adult Tommy blew the audience away with an amazing performance. His name is Tom McGunn – and in addition to his amazing talent on stage, Tom has been a treasured marketing associate with Broadway In Chicago for over 4 years. Before that, he performed with my daughter in Joseph at the Chicago Theatre and Phantom at the Candlelight Playhouse.

Saturday – okay, let’s not talk about Saturday as it was all about getting caught up with e-mail – not very theatrical at all! However Sunday made up for it – the Sunday in June that every theatre Broadwayite (new term that was coined at the Tony’s!) waits with great anticipation.

It started off attending a reading of a musical in development called Harold and Maude (of the cult movie fame) at the home of director and Northwestern professor, David Bell. It was an intimate group of people – all theatre folk including Sandy Shinner from Victory Gardens, Bill Pullinsi from Theatre at the Center, and Libby Mages – Broadway Producer, among others. Kurt Johns, directed the piece and the show is written by Tom Jones who wrote the music for The Fantastiks. The cast was brilliant starring Renee Matthews but the stand out to me was her co-star Nathan Carroll, a recent graduate from Columbia College in Chicago and the most amazing young talent – and most importantly a valued usher for Broadway In Chicago.

Then at 7 pm, we had a Tony party with fellow Broadway In Chicago staffers and dinner by producer Tony D’Angelo (name-sake chef for the Tony’s and my adorable husband). We all thought it was one of the best Tony productions – lots of performances! Okay there were some sound problems but there was so much to look at – glittering stars, lots of people/producers that love Chicago and great performances, not-to-be-missed plays and even some stars from the shows you have or had in Chicago including our lead from Jersey Boys and Legally Blonde. Plus great performances by Shrek, soon to be at the Oriental Theatre, and our dear friend David Stone’s (producer of Wicked) Next to Normal (what an unbelievably moving show – even Elton gave a shout out to the composers), West Side Story (what a performance!), Rock of Ages and Hair (both rocked the house – and the TV viewing audience too – and hopefully rocking a Broadway In Chicago theatre soon!). Last but certainly not least, the 2009 Tony Award for Best Musical – BILLY ELLIOT! This is a shout out to the show’s producers: we so want this show to come to Chicago first before any other city outside of NY and for the longest time possible. Please send your pleas for the show to come here first and we will send them on to the producer!

High on Theatre,

Eileen

P.S. Here is real insider scoop – there was a quick video teaser for the THE ADDAMS FAMILY but only for the audience members at the Tony’s. Click here and you too can be on the inside. And don’t forget to buy your tickets! THE ADDAMS FAMILY is on its way to being sold out!

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Filed under Billy Elliot the Musical, Broadway In Chicago, Hair, Jersey Boys, Legally Blonde The Musical, New York, Next to Normal, Rock of Ages, Shrek The Musical, The Addams Family, West Side Story