Review of West Side Story at the Guthrie Theater

Quote of the Day: Why do you live like there’s a war on? Why do you kill? Doc, from the iconic musical West Side Story, re-imagined and diversely cast at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, MN. My first thought as the Jets entered and took over the stage was, “This is a representation of a neighborhood,” more like In the Heights where people from multiple cultural and racial backgrounds form a gang to protect their territory. It’s less Whites against Puerto Ricans and more “We got here first, who are you to invade our territory.” It’s the immigrant story of America because each time a new group of people arrives on the borders of the United States of America, they become the hated group. The groups that have already arrived are still fighting for their place in line, and aren’t about to give it up. 

The cast of the Guthrie Theater’s production of West Side Story, based on a conception of Jerome Robbins with a book by Arthur Laurents. Music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, directed by Joseph Haj. Scenic design by Christopher Acebo, costume design by Jen Caprio, lighting design by Bradley King, sound design by Elisheba Ittoop. June 16 – August 26, 2018 on the Wurtele Thrust Stage at the Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis. Photo by T Charles Erickson.

The cast of the Guthrie Theater’s production of West Side Story, based on a conception of Jerome Robbins with a book by Arthur Laurents. Music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, directed by Joseph Haj. Scenic design by Christopher Acebo, costume design by Jen Caprio, lighting
design by Bradley King, sound design by Elisheba Ittoop. June 16 – August 26, 2018 on the Wurtele Thrust Stage at the Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis. Photo by T Charles Erickson.

Director Joseph Haj is behind the more diverse, and inclusive, casting, and his decision to hire Choreographer Maija Garcia to create new moves to represent the groups and tell this story, the story of what it means to be an American, to be new in this diverse and difficult country, and to give voice (through movement) to many varied cultures. It was fascinating, refreshing, poignant, and compelling. I wish I could see it again. 

Ana Isabelle (Anita), Marco Antonio Santiago (Bernardo) and the cast of the Guthrie Theater’s production of West Side Story, based on a conception of Jerome Robbins with a book by Arthur Laurents. Music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, directed by Joseph Haj. Scenic design by Christopher Acebo, costume design by Jen Caprio, lighting design by Bradley King, sound design by Elisheba Ittoop. June 16 – August 26, 2018 on the Wurtele Thrust Stage at the Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis. Photo by T Charles Erickson.

Ana Isabelle (Anita), Marco Antonio Santiago (Bernardo) and the cast of the Guthrie Theater’s production of West Side Story, based on a conception of Jerome Robbins with a book by Arthur Laurents. Music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, directed by Joseph Haj. Scenic design by
Christopher Acebo, costume design by Jen Caprio, lighting design by Bradley King, sound design by Elisheba Ittoop. June 16 – August 26, 2018 on the Wurtele Thrust Stage at the Guthrie Theater,
Minneapolis. Photo by T Charles Erickson.

I’m grateful that I attended the Sunday, June 24, matinee performance which included a post play discussion. I learn so much about the creative process during those talk backs. Many of the cast members came out to talk to the audience, answer questions, and offer insight. They all seemed to agree that the casting and choreography choices made the creative process for them even better. They felt they were part of the show in a way that can only be done through an openness to new ideas. They performers said they felt they could bring their own personal relevance/light to the story as they built it together. 

Darius Jordan Lee as Riff, and other Jets in the Guthrie Theater's production of West Side Story, playing through August 26, 2018 in Minneapolis, MN. Photo by T. Charles Erickson

Darius Jordan Lee as Riff, and other Jets in the Guthrie Theater’s production of West Side Story, playing through August 26, 2018 in Minneapolis, MN. Photo by T. Charles Erickson

Watching this cast create this story with fresh ideas, movement, and staging made West Side Story more emotional and relevant to me. I heard new lines, paid more attention to the lyrics (especially in “Gee, Officer Krupke”) and felt even stronger the frustration with violence and fear created between groups.

The entire production is emotional and spectacular. The cast members are tremendous, especially the leads who give so much heart to their characters. The lighting, sound, and set are powerful. The musicians, lead by Mark Hartman and Denise Prosek, are outstanding. I hope you get a chance to see this powerful performance of West Side Story at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, MN. Playing through August 26, 2018.

Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Prompt: Are you open to new perspectives on old ideas or stories? 

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