Heartwood/Lincoln Academy to present ‘West Side Story’

Posted:  Wednesday, September 13, 2017 - 11:00am

They’re at it again this fall, more ambitious than ever!  Heartwood Theater and Lincoln Academy (LA) are collaborating for the 15th consecutive season, in a mammoth musical undertaking open to all Midcoast youths – “West Side Story.”

“With 20 adult actors, musicians, technicians and directors and nearly 40 students from several schools involved as performers, musicians and technicians, this is a substantial undertaking,” notes Director Griff Braley.  “The sheer volume of work from so many is astounding, and their efforts will culminate in seven Poe Theater performances, Nov. 3-11.”

“For students who are fortunate enough to be involved, this will require everything they can bring, over the next eight weeks. It’s the kind of experience youths will remember, for years to come.  For some, it will be a life changer,” noted Heartwood’s executive director, Joy Braley.  “For Lincoln Academy students, the enormous time and effort required for this production qualifies for school credit, a new and exciting arrangementthe school.”

“West Side Story,” originally produced on Broadway in in 1957, is based on Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” with book by Arthur Laurents, music by Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim.  Set in the Upper West Side of New York City in the mid-1950s, the musical explores the dynamics between two teenage, ethnic street gangs, the Sharks and the Jets. The dark theme, sophisticated music, extended dance scenes and focus on social problems could not be more relevant today.

Packed full of dance and music, the need for experienced, professional staff is of paramount importance.    

Michelle Bruckner, New York-based director/choreographer, is back on the Heartwood/LA scene, and will travel  to Maine six times in the next month and a half, teaching choreography and dance to students, many of whom have little or no prior experience.  “It’s a giant step forward for the students, as well as Heartwood and LA,” said Braley, having long envisioned dance as an integrated programmatic component in the Midcoast.

Beth Preston, acclaimed choral instructor teaching at LA, has worked closely with Braley on adult and student musicals for nearly 20 years and returns for this production and music director Sean Fleming has hand-picked a group of several professional musicians.

Auditions for “West Side Story” were held last spring, with a record number of students putting themselves on the line for parts.  Once cast, the lead performers — Kayleigh Tolley as Maria and Ethan Jones as Tony —  spent much of their summer learning the vast amount of music, under the careful teaching and vocal care of Preston.  Many of the early full cast rehearsals have been spent with Preston, conquering the sophisticated music of large (and smaller) group numbers.  Once learned, the challenge becomes moving from vocals-only, to the stage … where not only voices, but actions, intentions, dance and character development are integrated.  

Tickets, $5/students and $16/adults, are expected to go quickly; early reservations are a very good idea. Evening performances at 7 p.m. are scheduled for Nov. 3, 4, 8-11, with a single 3 p.m. matinee on Sunday, Nov. 5. All show are  in the Poe Theater at Lincoln Academy. 

Reservations available by emailing Heartwood at info@heartwoodtheater.org or phoning 207-563-1373 (please do not contact Lincoln Academy for tickets).  Seating is unreserved, unless specifically requested in advance.  For more details visit www.heartwoodtheater.org.