'West Side Story,' to play at Brooks, sounds awfully familiar

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By Michael Romain

Staff Reporter

Musical Theater International (MTI), one of the world's largest music theater publishing and licensing agencies, routinely gives theater groups throughout the world the rights to perform famous Broadway musicals. This year, MTI is piloting a special student edition, which allows young music theater students the opportunity to perform popular stage hits, and students at Brooks Middle School, 325 S. Kenilworth Ave., are the first to test the program. 

The students are members of Encore, a two-week summer musical theater workshop based at Brooks, where they'll be performing "West Side Story" on July 29 and July 30. Both performances will start at 7:30 p.m. The play addresses racial and social tensions of the day and the escalating violence of a disaffected youth. A brief synopsis of the Broadway play in a recent Encore statement provides surprising similarities to the present day.

"West Side Story is an adaptation of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet that takes place on New York's West Side in the mid-1950s amidst racial and social tension. The show begins as a war is building between two rival gangs fighting over the same piece of turf: born and raised New York boys, The Jets, and Puerto Rican immigrants, The Sharks," according to the statement.

"In the midst of the battlefield are two young romantics; good- guy Tony and wide-eyed beauty Maria, the sister of the Shark leader. When Tony and Maria unexpectedly meet and fall for one another, tensions between the rival groups escalate. Through these rivals and acts of violence we follow two young lovers trying to find their way together while hate and ignorance are escalating and times are hard."

 Michael Romain

Email: michael@oakpark.com

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