‘West Side Story’: A triple threat experience

Posted:  Thursday, October 5, 2017 - 8:30am

Story Location:
81 Academy Hill Road
Newcastle  Maine  04553
United States

“West Side Story,” Nov 3-11, is the first big “Triple Threat” undertaking with Heartwood and Lincoln Academy (LA), since “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” in 2008.  What makes it triple? It’s loaded with singing, dancing and acting.  It’s an incredible opportunity most young actors could only dream of.  It’s most certainly one they will never forget.

By the time this show opens in the Poe Theater, 36 students will have spent more than 40 hours just learning and rehearsing dance basics and choreography, with New York-based choreographer, Michelle Bruckner.  Several students come with years of dance experience, but many more do not.  

Singing began for the lead roles during the summer and continues, even now, with LA’s choral instructor, Beth Preston.  Early full cast and smaller group rehearsals were spent working the masterful lyrics and tunes put together back in the mid-1950s, by Bernstein and Sondheim.  It’s challenging music, not only for singers, but for the professional orchestra in rehearsals with Sean Fleming.

Content-wise, it’s difficult material.  First and foremost, it’s a love story, but quickly rising to the surface are issues of immigration and racism, as in “Romeo and Juliet,” the story on which this show is based. Love and hate and the way they weave in complicated patterns through our lives — this is always relevant. Director Griff Braley focuses intensely with students not only on what’s happening in each scene, but addressing the question of why, of intent, and what’s really going on with their character, beneath the words and actions.

The first five weeks of rehearsals have been directed largely in a single area — singing, dancing or acting. The most challenging rehearsals are yet to come. Putting it all together. It’s one thing to sing while standing, to dance in a choreography session, to consider and develop one’s character during scene work.  Meshing all of this together into one rich, artistic whole requires everything the cast, crew and directors can bring to the process. Stitching it together requires a great deal of patience and trust, on everyone’s part.

Tickets are selling quickly; reservations are a must.  Seating is unreserved, unless specifically requested in advance.  

Evening  performances are at 7 p.m. on Nov. 3, 4, 8-11, with a single 3 p.m. matinee on Sunday, Nov.  5 in the Poe Theater, at Lincoln Academy.  Student tickets are $5 and adults are $16.

Reservations available by emailing Heartwood at info@heartwoodtheater.org or phoning 207-563-1373 (please do not contact Lincoln Academy for tickets). For more details visit www.heartwoodtheater.org