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'West Side Story' revival stops in Toledo

 The cast this year were Michael Spencer Smith (Bernardo, left) and Benjamin Dallas Redding (Riff, right).
The cast this year were Michael Spencer Smith (Bernardo, left) and Benjamin Dallas Redding (Riff, right).
Photo by Amy Boyle

The Broadway revival of “West Side Story” opened yesterday for a four day run at the Stranahan Theater. Besides last night’s sellout performance, from May 2- May 4 a total of five additional performances will be given.

Grisso and Green star as Maria and Tony in "West Side Story" in Toledo.
Grisso and Green star as Maria and Tony in "West Side Story" in Toledo.
Amy Boyle

This classic musical remains as timely as ever. This new version stars Jarrad Biron Green and MaryJoanna Grisso as the star-crossed lovers Tony and Maria. This is Green’s first tour on the revival of the musical. Also joining the cast this year were Michael Spencer Smith (Bernardo) and Benjamin Dallas Redding (Riff). Grisso played Maria during the 2012-2013 tour. Michelle Alves also returned to “West Side Story” for a second year. She plays Anita. The cast belted out such memorable tunes as “Tonight”, “I Feel Pretty”, “Maria”, and many more.

This “West Side Story” has been changed from the version that first appeared on stage back in 1957. Arthur Laurents was the director of the Broadway revival that the national tour is based on. He wanted to bring the characters into a more contemporary world. In an interview via Troika Entertainment, he said, “I felt the gangs in the original production were sweet little things. And the truth is, they’re all killers – every one of them.”

David Saint, the director for the national tour, echoed Laurents. Both felt the script and songs should reflect today’s world. In a recent interview with Troika Entertainment, Saint explained how the show was updated. “The plan was to remove much of the coy musical comedy theatre jargon of the ’50s. This would help to take the gangs more seriously as troubled youths who were a product of this world of bigotry and violence which Arthur had set out to create; ones capable of horrific acts in the tragedy of the story.”

Saint also believed a change in the language would help modernize the show. Saint said, “In addition, because both the world and the world of theater have changed since 1957, it now seemed appropriate at certain moments that the Puerto Rican Sharks should speak among themselves in their native Spanish tongue.”

Tickets are still available for tonight’s show and the four shows this weekend. For show times and ticket information, see the Stranahan Theater website.

“West Side Story” will be the last production presented by Theaterleague.com’s Broadway in Toledo Series for the 2013-2014 season. The Stranahan Theater has recently presented other Broadway shows such as “Million Dollar Quartet,” “Rock of Ages” and “American Idiot.” The theater will soon announce the schedule for the 2014-15 Broadway in Toledo Series.