West Side Story is set on September 5

STAGES’ production of the landmark musical "West Side Story," opening on Sept. 5 at Meralco Theater, is a highly anticipated revival in Asia, which precedes a new Broadway production in 2009. The local production features a stellar cast of  pop  artists   and   international

thespians Christian Bautista, Karylle, Joanna Ampil, Rowena Vilar, Pam G, Jake Macapagal, Jeff Singson, and Gian Magdangal; stage direction by Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo; and musical direction by Gerard Salonga with the FILharmoniKA orchestra.

In Manila, "West Side Story" was first staged by Repertory Philippines in 1981 where Yulo played the role of Maria; paired up with Cocoy Laurel who essayed the role of Tony. Audie Gemora, who is now "West Side Story’s" executive producer, played the "Jets" gang leader Riff at that time.

"West Side Story" transports the classic tale of Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" to the turbulent streets of the Upper West Side in 1950s New York City. Star-crossed lovers, Tony (Bautista) and Maria (Karylle and Ampil), find themselves caught between the rival street gangs of different ethnic backgrounds, the "Jets," led by Riff (Magdangal), and the "Sharks," led by Bernardo (Macapagal and Singson). The young lovers’ struggle to exist together in a world of violence, hate, and prejudice is one of the most heartrending, relevant, and innovative musical masterpieces originally conceived for the stage by director and choreographer Jerome Robbins.

"West Side Story" highlights the many show-stopping numbers, and immortal songs of Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim like "Somewhere," "Tonight," "One Hand, One Heart," "America," and "Something’s Coming."

While the new Broadway production is said to present the "Sharks" speaking and singing in Spanish, Yulo says that the local production is staying true to what "West Side Story" was in 1957. It will re-create Jerome Robbins’ choreography, delivering it as it was originally written.

The director challenges her cast to come up with extremely organic characters though. "My actors attack their characters in a more real, more edgy manner as compared to the musical’s movie version. I don’t set rules and tell them what to do during rehearsals. I take it on how they give it," shares Yulo. "I don’t expect Karylle’s Maria will be like Joanna’s, for instance. I don’t make them copy each other, but I still make sure that there’s not a great disparity in their performances."

Gemora reveals that restaging "West Side Story," cost STAGES millions of pesos, but claims that it is worth investing for in this new generation of musical theater actors.

Completing the cast of "West Side Story" are Jordan Aguilar, Marielle Alonzo, Jed Amihan, Rosanne Araneta, Earl Baer, April Luz Belarmino, Caissa Borromeo, Joanna Marie Cabrega, Red Concepcion, Napoleon Ching, Pom Decena, Carlos Deriada, Guji Lorenzana, John Philip Martir, Francis Matheu, Beth Munar, Michelle Murenec, Mikaela Padilla, Anthony Ong, Vinia Pamplona, Sam Prudenciando, Rizza Ribo, Bobby Superales, Jay-Anne Tensuan, Erwin Villanueva, Gerald Yranon, Noel Zabala, and theater veterans Richard Cunanan, James Paoleli, and Jaime del Mundo.

Mio Infante is scenographer; John Batalla is lighting director; Bobbit Jacinto is sound designer; and Eric Pineda is costume designer.

"West Side Story" runs at Meralco Theater on Sept. 5, 6, 7, 12, 13, 14, 19, 20, 21, Oct. 3, 4, 5, 10, 11, and 12, 2008.  For tickets, call Ticketworld at 891-9999 or STAGES at 818-1111 loc. 225.  Ticketworld is online at www.ticketworld.com.ph. Ticket prices range from PhP 500 to 1,200.

"West Side Story" is made by possible with the support coming from ABS CBN, The Philippine Star, Ambient Media, MET Tathione, Discovery Suites, PLDT, Outland, MAC, Skechers, Swatch, Bench, Oishi, Belo, Gold’s Gym, McDonalds, Senheisser, Peri Peri Chicken, Kiseki, Trinoma, Trumpets Musicademy, Pioneer Life, Warner Music Philippines, ClicktheCity.Com, Yehey.Com, Myx, Business Mirror, Dunkin’ Donuts, Essensuals Toni & Guy, Bed Head Products, Circle Café, Getzmo.Com, Pep.Ph, and Spot.Ph.

"West Side Story" is presented through special arrangement with Music Theatre International (MTI) in New York.

Source: Titik Pilipino

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