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VYT opens 26th season with original Broadway version of ‘West Side Story’

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The Sharks and the Jets are at it again. Valley Youth Theatre opens its 26th anniversary season with the original Broadway musical version of “West Side Story” on Aug. 8. The show runs through Aug. 24.

According to Bobb Cooper, VYT’s producing artistic director, this is the fourth time VYT has produced the musical. “The first two were in the mid ’90s in the basement of Tower Plaza. This year, as in 2000, our performances will be at the Herberger Theater Center,” he said. The Herberger is located at 222 E. Monroe St. in Phoenix.

The show’s cast of 40 includes 14 actors who are new to VYT, including three adults: Peter Hart as Lieutenant Schrank, Kevin Ohlfest as Officer Krupke and Mitch Etter as Doc. “These talented performers come from New River, Surprise, Chandler and all points in between,” Cooper said. “Most have rehearsed five days a week for seven weeks, and the results will absolutely astound you.”

Co-choreographing “West Side Story” are Katie Casey (nee Rex) and Lucas Coatney, both VYT alums. Casey has been involved in all four productions at VYT, playing Anybodys in 1995 and 1996, Anita in 2000. Coatney had roles in the first two productions.

With book by Arthur Laurents, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and music by Leonard Bernstein, “West Side Story” is based on a concept by Jerome Robbins. Robbins also directed and choreographed the original Broadway production in 1957.

Set in 1950s New York City, “West Side Story” is a modern-day version of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet.” When two young people from rival gangs fall in love, tragedy ensues. The play was made into a movie in 1961, starring Natalie Wood as Maria, Richard Beymer as Tony and Rita Moreno as Anita.

Tickets to “West Side Story” start at $20 and are available online or by calling the Herberger box office at (602) 252-8497.