West Side Story transports William Shakespeare’s timeless romantic tragedy Romeo and Juliet to the streets of Manhattan in the 1950s. Instead of warring Montague and Capulet families, there are warring gangs of teenagers, the Jets and the Sharks. Instead of young lovers Romeo and Juliet, we have Tony and Maria, two teens who are torn between ethnic loyalty and their intense love for each other. The Broadway musical’s beloved score includes such songs as “Tonight,” “Maria,” “Somewhere,” and “Something’s Coming.”
This exciting new production of the Golden Age favorite features an energetic young cast and faithfully re-creates Jerome Robbins’ iconic choreography and Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim’s extraordinary score. The production is directed by the show’s scribe, Arthur Laurents, who has also added a twist (and some extra authenticity) by having the Sharks speak and sometimes sing in their native Spanish tongue.
The Public Theater has just announced full casting for its first 2007 Shakespeare in the Park offering, and it looks like this year won’t be the star-studded affair of past years (see: Meryl Streep in Mother Courage and Her Children last summer).
The biggest names in Romeo and Juliet, which begins performances on June 5, are Lauren Ambrose and Camryn Manheim, who will play Juliet and her Nurse in Shakespeare’s iconic love story. Having a more low profile cast is likely a blessing in disguise, since it means we’ll get to enjoy the Bard’s beautiful text being performed by trained professionals rather than struggling movie stars (obviously I’m not referring to Ms. Streep, who was a knockout). It also means that ticket demand won’t be as high, so you’ll have a better chance of snagging tickets.
For the uninitiated, Shakespare in the Park tickets are absolutely free, and they’re distributed at 1PM on the day of the performance in front of the Delacorte Theater in Central Park, and also in front of the Public Theater downtown. Demand varies, but it’s usually a good idea to join the line by 8 or 9 in the morning (when Meryl was doing the show, people often camped out the night before!)