West Side Story in city’s east end

Windsor Star - - ARTS - BEATRICE FANTONI bfan­toni@wind­sorstar.com or follow me on Twit­ter @bfan­toni

West Side Story is about to open in Wind­sor’s east end.

Arts Col­lec­tive The­atre, a lo­cal non­profit that pairs lo­cal high school, col­lege and univer­sity stu­dents with the­atre pro­fes­sion­als to work on fullscale pro­duc­tions, will open its in­au­gu­ral mu­si­cal pro­duc­tion of West Side Story on Fri­day, Oct. 10 at the Olde Walk­erville The­atre.

“West Side Story is a chal­lenge and I ac­cept the chal­lenge,” said Christo­pher Rabideau, the artis­tic di­rec­tor of ACT, which came into be­ing in May this year.

Rabideau has di­rected shows all over Wind­sor and has also worked on so­cial jus­tice ini­tia­tives with youth, new­com­ers and the LGBT com­mu­nity. One of the mu­si­cals that stu­dents were al­ways ask­ing him about was West Side Story, he said, but be­cause it’s such a dif­fi­cult pro­duc­tion — it calls not just for se­ri­ous singing and act­ing chops, but for top-notch chore­og­ra­phy, too — no­body in the city re­ally wanted to do it.

The mu­si­cal, writ­ten by Leonard Bern­stein and Stephen Sond­heim in the 1950s and also turned into an Os- car-win­ning film adap­ta­tion in 1961, is a mod­ern retelling of Shake­speare’s Romeo and Juliet. The ri­valry is be­tween Puerto Ri­cans and Cau­casians in 1950s New York, the star- crossed lovers are Maria and Tony. (Even if you’re not into mu­si­cals, chances are you’ve heard the snappy group num­ber Amer­ica or the Span­ish-styled tune I Feel Pretty.)

But rather than do the same as the orig­i­nal, Rabideau said, the ACT ver­sion opted for non-tra­di­tional cast­ing and, through the choice of light­ing, decor and a scaf­fold­ing-only set, sub­tly raises the is­sue of the “il­lu­sion” of the Amer­i­can dream.

It’s an am­bi­tious un­der­tak­ing, but it’s the per­fect op­por­tu­nity for this com­mu­nity group, Rabideau said. The stu­dents and men­tors have been work­ing through the sum­mer, with lo­cal the­atre pro­fes­sion­als men­tor­ing the cast and crew in all as­pects of the pro­duc­tion, from the light­ing booth to the chore­og­ra­phy to cos­tumes, makeup and even the show posters.

And, all of the leads — in­clud­ing the stu­dents play­ing Maria and Tony — are first-timers. “They’re all strong and amaz­ing,” Rabideau said.

ACT’s pro­duc­tion of West Side Story will also be the first full show hosted in the Olde Walk­erville The­atre, so it’s a good op­por­tu­nity to see the his­toric space come back to life.

The plan is to put on a mu­si­cal pro­duc­tion ev­ery au­tumn and also de­velop other so­cial jus­tice-ori­ented the­atre works through­out the year. An up­com­ing project with lo­cal stu­dents will have them writ­ing and pro­duc­ing a the­atre piece to raise aware­ness about men­tal health, Rabideau said.

West Side Story opens Fri­day, Oct. 10, with ad­di­tional per­for­mances Oct. 11, 17, 18 and 19 at the Olde Walk­erville The­atre, 1564 Wyan­dotte St. E. For ticket in­for­ma­tion, visit actwind­sor.com, old­e­walk­ervil­lethe­atre.com or call 519253-2929. Tick­ets are $18 open­ing night and $22 for the re­main­der of the run.

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