William Shakespeare is said to have been the playwright who best overcame the trials and tribulations that come with the passing of time. His plays and overall ideas have managed to transcend hundreds of generations and thousands of changes in popular culture to continue bringing a powerful message to all who view his work.
All around the world theater and film directors interpret and manipulate his work to create something new and original. "Much Ado About Nothing" changes setting to a small town in Mexico. "Richard III" is set in a mental institution. "The Taming of the Shrew" is adapted to become "Kiss Me Kate." It is, though, Shakespeare's most famous, and arguable most influential work, that has been interpreted most constantly, the tale of two star crossed lovers — "Romeo and Juliet."
Over half a century ago Jerome Robbins and Arthur Laurents teamed up with musical legends Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim to produce a modern version of Shakespeare's legendary hit. "West Side Story" took the theatre community by storm when it debuted in September 1957. James Madison High School promises to again take the community by storm with their rendition of West Side Story this spring.
"WEST SIDE STORY," based directly on Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet," tells the tale of two star crossed lovers Tony (Byron Wiedeman), a member of the teenage gang — the Jets — and Maria (Montana Brown), The Jet's rival gang — the Sharks — leader's baby sister. Shakespeare's classic transpires from Verona Italy to the harsh streets of New York City in the late 1950s. Maria and Tony face the influence and violence brought on by their friends, families, and fellow gang members, all of which determines their eventual fate — but is that fate what you're expecting?
Madison's production is an eclectic mix of familiar faces with a splattering of newcomers to the department. Senior Jessica Snow will play Anita opposite Kai Chang in the role of Bernardo. The Jets include Seniors Will Cromartie (Riff), Kyle Street (Action), and Anna Fajkowski (Minnie) as well as Junior Kate Laird. Bernado's band of Sharks is composed of Nicole Barrea, Kunal Juanjee, and Max Chang.
The cast, made up of over 40 veteran actors, is rotating rehearsals between three demanding coaches. Jennifer Koonce, Madison's loyal choreographer and dance team coach, promises to bring to life the emotion of the play through dance.
Madison has been blessed by two new art directors this year. Claire Rowan, the new choir director, has been enthusiastically working with the cast on the musical score with only melodious praise coming from those who have worked with her.
After proving himself to the Vienna community with the fall production of "Rumors," Madison's new director, Marshall Henderson, is taking on his first-ever musical this year. He can be heard encouraging actors to find inspiration from within to bring to life the tragic realism of the show.
With over a half a dozen successful set designs under his belt and two CAPPIES nominations, Rob Ross is a force to be reckoned with for "West Side Story's" set. Madison has effectively accomplished rolling lit staircases, multiple levels, wagons, running fountains, and intricate designs.
Sophomore Ebbie Hock and Junior Heather Mella are also sure to astound with their lighting and costume creations, respectively.
TICKETS MAY be purchased in advance for $8 or at the door for $10. To purchase tickets in advance, you may reach the theatre department directly at 703-319-2306. While calling for tickets, consider inquiring about becoming a donor to the department. Large contributions of anywhere from $50 to $500 made over the course of summer and early fall 2005 will make a tremendous difference in the department's abilities as well as allotting season tickets to all Madison productions for your advanced support.
Director Marshall Henderson explains "West Side Story's" relevance perfectly: "The story's social message remains as relative as it was 400 years ago, as it was 40 years ago, as it is today." So if you're looking for a toe-taping, heart-wrenching evening but can't think of what to do "Tonight" come hear why Montana Brown is feeling "Oh so pretty" at JMHS. And we promise, nothing will be in iambic pentameter!