All-time favorite on its way

It is a modern version of «Romeo and Juliet,» set against the backdrop of New York City gang feuds. The well-known musical «West Side Story,» with its trademark melodies, will come to Greece to be staged at the Badminton Theater for three weeks in September. Director and choreographer of the Broadway production Joey McKneely joined Michalis Adam, the head of Adam Productions, which will bring the show to the Greek capital, for a press conference yesterday. Adam pointed out that this is the only production that can be called an «original» revival, since it has the full rights. The production also stays true to the original direction, music and choreography. The show is currently on a world tour, celebrating the 50-year anniversary of the premiere of «West Side Story,» which took place in New York in September 1957. The show has already traveled to Tokyo, Singapore and Paris and is scheduled to move to London’s Sadler’s Wells Theater after the performances in Athens. The «West Side Story» tale, which tells the tragic love story between two young people who belong to the rival Jets and Sharks street gangs, was the result of a collaboration between four great artists. Acclaimed composer Leonard Bernstein, former music director of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, distinguished choreographer Jerome Robbins, who also served as ballet master of the New York City Ballet, writer and playwright Arthur Laurents and award-winning lyricist Stephen Sondheim all got together to produce this musical, each of them contributing to its timelessness. The story was transferred to the big screen in 1961 in an unforgettable movie, starring Natalie Wood, which won 10 Academy Awards. New York City may have changed greatly since the late 1950s and early 60s, but the musical’s plot remains more contemporary than ever. Youth gangs armed with guns usually operate much of the street drug trade today, but the essence of rival conflict remains the same and audiences can always identify with a tragic story of love and discrimination. A trailer of the upcoming performance, which was screened at the press conference, seemed more than promising. «What you cannot see in the video is the amount of emotion that the cast transmits to the audience,» said McKneely. «There is all this passion in the dancing and the acting. What makes this different from other productions is the cast’s commitment to those emotions and to the story.» McKneely, who was a student of Jerome Robbins, made his debut as a choreographer on Broadway in Jerry Zaks’s «Smokey Joe’s Cafe,» which was nominated for three awards, including a Tony. He has choreographed numerous Broadway and off-Broadway productions as well as a «West Side Story» production for Milan’s La Scala, based on Robbins’s choreography. «We make sure we bring young people to the stage,» he added, explaining that only a young cast can convey the musical’s energy. McKneely believes that it is very important for the show to reflect a feeling of freshness, since it is «about bringing it to the next generation,» while using elements from the original. Adam explained that the production is highly demanding. Bernstein’s music requires a 24-person orchestra, which is very large by musical standards as shows usually feature eight to 12-member orchestras. «’West Side Story’ is the height of musical theater, it is almost an opera. It requires the singers, dancers and actors to have classical training,» said McKneely. Shows will run Wednesdays to Mondays for three weeks, only from September 10 to 29 because then the company has to continue on to the next stop on its world tour. Shows start at 9 p.m. daily, with an additional show at 4 p.m. on weekends. Tickets can be purchased on tel 210.884.0600;; Virgin Megastores and the theater box office (Goudi Military Park, tel 211.108.6024).