Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

New `West Side Story' Production Promises to Be Faithful to Original

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

New `West Side Story' Production Promises to Be Faithful to Original

Article excerpt

Don't be misled.

The national advertising campaign for the production of West

Side Story that opens tomorrow in Jacksonville might make

theater-goers think this show's an updated, down-and-dirty '90s

version of the well-known musical.

After all, there's Maria in a skimpy, skintight black dress.

She has her head thrown back in passionate abandon and one leg

practically wrapped around Tony.

Not exactly the way those who saw the movie version remember

the star-crossed lovers in this retelling of the Romeo and

Juliet story. In that version, Tony breathes Maria's name

"almost like praying" and Maria pleads in vain for Anita to make

the neckline of her chaste white party dress just "one little

inch" lower.

But, in spite of the advertising, the Florida Community College

at Jacksonville's Artist Series production is not a sexy update.

"It's basically the original Broadway production, with remakes

of the costumes," said Jeremy Koch, who's playing Tony, in a

phone interview. "It's pretty much what you would have seen in


Koch said other cast members were puzzled by the advertising,

too. "Sex sells, I guess, but it doesn't have anything to do

with our production of the show," he said.

In fact, director Alan Johnson was also less than enthusiastic

when he talked about the ad campaign at the beginning of the


"I know it's wrong," he said to Octavio Roca, dance critic at

The San Francisco Chronicle. "But what we're doing on stage is

the classic West Side Story, the real thing. I promise you


In fact, Johnson, who, incidentally, danced as a Jet in the

1957 Broadway production, has reproduced the direction and

choreography of theater legend Jerome Robbins.

Robbins' collaborators were composer Leonard Bernstein,

lyricist Stephen Sondheim and librettist Arthur Laurents.

But fidelity to the original doesn't mean the show has a dated

feel to it, though, as critics have pointed out.

Yes, there's some beat-style language that now sounds a little

silly, daddy-o.

But the choreography is still muscular and exciting and the

songs, especially the ballads like Somewhere, Maria and One

Hand, One Heart, are still powerful. …

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