MARIA (JULIA ESTRADA) AND TONY (LUKE HAMILTON), WITH BERNARDO, YUREL ECHEZARRETA) LURKING IN THE SHADOWS PHOTO BY MATT PUGLIESE
Two rival gangs, the Jets and the Sharks, are invading the campus of the University of Connecticut but there is no need to panic or summon the police. The best course of action is to seek shelter at the Jorgensen Auditorium and cheer them on as they are a major part of the cast of Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim’s classic musical thriller, with book by Arthur Laurents and choreography by Jerome Robbins, “West Side Story” raising a rumble until Sunday, July 17.
When the courageous Tony (Luke Hamilton) meets the luminous Maria (Julia Estrada), love springs forth under a star filled sky. But just like their literary ancestors, Romeo and Juliet, their affection is tainted, their fate poisoned. Tony is the former leader of the Jets and Maria is the sister of the rival gang’s head honcho, Bernardo (Yurel Echezarreta ), an uncompromising opponent. The streets of New York, circa 1950 , are soon stained warm and red with blood as loyalties are questioned and sides are taken, encased in blocks of concrete. With guns and turf wars over disputed territory, you know the cliques are now full-fledged gangs. Nowhere are the stakes more obviously at risk.
When the leader of the Puerto Rican pack Bernardo finds his sister Maria has eyes only for Tony, a member of the rival group, the stage is set for tragedy. Just like the star-crossed lovers of old, Maria and Tony are trapped in conflicts not of their own making. The purity of their love is tarnished by the war that flares out of control. A sassy Anita, a fiery Cassidy Stoner, tries in vain to cool the conflagration and protect their affection.
The music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sonheim are magical, enhanced by Cassie Abate’s energetic choreography and mesmerizing direction, and s versatile set by Tim Brown. This is the dancingest musical ever, enhanced by such classic songs as “Something’s Coming,” “Maria,” “Tonight,” “America,” “Cool” “I Feel Pretty” and “I Have A Love.” “Gee, Officer Krupke” practically brings down the house.
For tickets ($12-55) call the Jorgensen Auditorium, Hillside Road, Storrs at (860)486-2113 or online at www.crt.uconn.edu. Performances are Tuesday to Thursday at 7:30 p.m, Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.
Watch how the slash of a switchblade cuts out lives and hopes as it inflicts pain and poignancy to the modern day equivalent of Shakespeare’s favorite pair of lovers.