'West Side Story' opens in Chicago next week

2013-06-06T23:42:00Z 2013-06-07T17:11:06Z 'West Side Story' opens in Chicago next weekEloise Marie Valadez Eloise.Valadez@nwi.com, (219) 933-3365 nwitimes.com

One of America's most iconic musicals will soon bound onto the stage of Chicago's Oriental Theatre.

Broadway in Chicago's touring production of "West Side Story" opens June 11 and runs through  June 16.

First appearing on Broadway in 1957, "West Side Story" quickly became a hit for its powerhouse music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, choreography by Jerome Robbins and script by Arthur Laurents.

David Saint, the show's associate director on Broadway, recreated Laurents' original Broadway direction for the touring production of "West Side Story." The last time the tour stopped in Chicago was in 2011.

For anyone who loves the film "West Side Story" starring Natalie Wood, Rita Moreno, Russ Tamblyn, George Chakiris and Richard Beymer, being in the audience for the live production will be a treat.

The storyline of the show revolves around main characters Maria and Tony, in a type of retelling of the famous Romeo and Juliet tale. It deals with the tense relationships between rival New York gangs the Sharks, of Puerto Rican descent, and the Caucasian Jets and also tells the story of the love between Maria and Tony and the tensions surrounding their families.

Dynamic choreography and a stellar score drive the production.

"For me, it's the music of the show that keeps you going (and excited)" said Mark Deler, who portrays a member of the Sharks as well as Bernardo, Maria's brother, in the show.

Deler, who's from Riverside, Ill., said he's honored that this is his first tour.

"I play the Shark named Inca and he's the laughing Shark. He's a fun, scrappy, kind of guy," said Deler. "I'm Puerto-Rican and Dominican and I like playing that role in the show," he added.

Deler said he auditioned in New York for "West Side Story" in March of 2012. He hit the stage in the production in September. "I've done over 200 shows now," he said, adding he doesn't tire of performing in the musical. When he's called on to play Bernardo, he also enjoys it, although he said it's a more complex role.

When the show hits Chicago, Deler said he's looking forward to seeing family and friends who have been supportive in his choice of career. "They love that I love what I do," he said.

For Michelle Alves,  cast as character Bernardo's girlfriend Anita, starring in "West Side Story" is a joy.

"I fell in love with the show the first time I saw the movie at 5 years old," Alves said. "It's such a beautiful story."

Alves said she knew she wanted to be a performer after seeing the film.

"The dancing is amazing and it's such a dream to be playing the wonderful Anita," she said.

Alves said although the story was written decades ago, it's still a commentary on many of the social, racial, and cultural issues people deal with today.

"This story will never be out of date," Alves said. The actress/dancer said she's looking forward to performing at such a historic theater as the Oriental.

During an interview in 2011, when director David Saint was preparing for the current show to have its first tour, he said, "'West Side Story' is considered the greatest musical ever written. "(At the time) Each member of the creative team was working at the top of their game and each one went on to become an icon."

Saint said Bernstein's music is "unsurpassed." Among tunes in the show are favorites such as "Maria," "Something's Coming," "Tonight," "I Feel Pretty," "Somewhere," and "One Hand, One Heart."

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