When people think of gang violence, what rarely comes to mind is dancing. But in the case of West Side Story, the two are tied together as one.
The Edina High School performance of the musical, West Side Story, runs from Nov. 1-10. The musical is a modern rendition of William Shakespeare’s tragedy, Romeo and Juliet. West Side Story is about love and the things that prevent it, in the sad tale of two young adults named Tony and Maria.
“Wait until you see those kids move,” said Mr. Tony Matthes, who directs the play and teaches theatre classes at Edina High School. “It hasn’t been easy trying to get 60 cast members, 15 crew, and 25 pit people together and on the same page, learning the dance.”
Though unhappiness and tragedy strike the characters in the musical, that is anything but the reaction of the audience.
“[West Side Story] is different from how we did Les Miserables, which was all singing, this is more of a dancing musical, an acting musical,” said Luke Randall, who played a Jet named A-rab and is Thespian Club Vice President.
Matthes said the dancing has been the most challenging factor in putting the musical together.
The choreography was put together by a number of people including Greg Joelson, Jessica Froehlich, Jolene Konkel, and a number of students.
“Let the choreography tell the story, let the dance tell the story,” Matthes said. “The commitment of these kids has been amazing, they’ve been coming in for play practice six days a week for 10 weeks.”
Another quality of the musical is it features the original choreography found in the movie and the Broadway productions.
“Trying to do the original Jerome Robbins choreography with non-professional dancers, in only months, to do dancing that Broadway dancers do, was a definite obstacle,” said Ms. Jessica Froehlich, a choreographer and English teacher. “We got the original manual of Jerome Robbins with the original choreography in it, we also used the film which was a great resource.”
Even the idea of a show told only through dance is new. “I’ve never done a show that’s specifically told through dance,” Matthes said. “[West Side Story] has it’s obvious message in it, violence, which has an effect on all of society. We’re doing this play in honor of musical theatre, the references to Romeo and Juliet still hold true today”.