Asolo Repertory Theatre hosted a preview for board members, donors and theater lovers of its season opener: the classic musical "West Side Story."
As the rest of the theaters in Sarasota are in the middle of or just finishing their first production of the 2015 arts season, the Asolo Repertory Theatre is still preparing for the opening of its first production: the classic gang musical "West Side Story."
Opening Asolo Rep's fourth year of its ambitious "American Character" project (detailing and examining what it means to be American through the countries greatest plays and musicals), this production of Leonard Bernstein, Arthur Laurents, Jerome Robbins and Stephen Sondheim's renowned musical will have a special emphasis on dancing authenticity and youthful energy.
"You're going to see a new, stylized vision of 'West Side Story,' says Joey McKneely, director and choreographer. "I wanted teenagers to see themselves onstage. It's my mission to inspire and create new friends and the fans of the music for the future."
The young cast, which consists of several teenagers including Booker High School students Victoria Byrd and Virgil Matelau as members of the Sharks, performed two musical numbers for the audience. First was the enchanting love song "Tonight" sung by this show's Tony and Maria, Marc Koeck and Jenna Burns. Then shortly after the young lovers' duet came Mary Antonini as Anita and the rest of the ladies of the Sharks sing and dance the humorous and thrilling "America."
The production, which opens for previews on Nov. 10 and runs through Dec. 27, will also be shown to sold out crowds of Sarasota and Manatee County high school students. Michael Donald Edwards, the producing artistic director, says that the theater are offering special discounts for students who can't see the show with their school.
"We're producing and presenting to Sarasota a new, energetic, and exciting version of 'West Side Story,' says Edwards. "And hopefully after all the students and members of the community absorb its powerful message, we'll have made the world a better place."