West Side Story visits Beaver Creek
August 19, 2010
BEAVER CREEK, Colorado – West Side Story is a classic American musical, based on the plot of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” about racism and gang violence in New York City. The young stars of the Vail Performing Arts Academy say they’re excited to do a play that addresses issues that resonate in our valley.
“In this valley there is a lot of racial separation,” says Susanna DeChant, who plays Anita. “I hope that people will think twice about their opinions after this show.”
The Vail Performing Arts Academy is putting on the production in only four weeks of rehearsals. Annah Scully, the executive producer, says that the company wanted to take a turn away from the usual upbeat and comedic musicals to focus on teaching the kids tolerance and respect for other cultures.
“We’ve addressed these kids with the topics, and we think that they have come away inspired and appreciative that they are able to perform something this poignant,” Scully says.
The production of West Side Story will be at the Vilar Center this weekend.
Set in New York City, the musical reviews the tragedies and triumphs of rival street gangs separated by race. Just like in “Romeo and Juliet,” star-crossed lovers from different sides of town fall in love and meet a terrible fate. A young Irish man named Tony from the Jets gang (played by high school senior Kristofer Thornton) tries to bridge the gap between his girlfriend’s rival Puerto Rican gang, the Sharks.
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“In this show, I have to play a 17-year-old boy who is falling in love,” Thornton says. “This theme is all too familiar.”
The lovers are the peacekeepers of the gangs, but they end up becoming tied to the conflict through family, friends, and racial differences. The music by Leonard Bernstein is intertwined with the modernized characters and setting and highlights the racial tension between gangs in the 1950’s.
Valley professionals Colin Meiring and Sean Pack instructed the kids in choreography and acting. All of the performers practice their accents that their characters would have used if they were real.
Annie Bronfam, who plays Francesca, said she loves to act.
Acting “gives me the chance to be everything that I’m not,” Bronfam says. “It’s fun because playing a character can be really easy and being yourself can be really hard.”