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West Side Story

Victory Productions revives the poignant musical, complete with a dream ballet sequence rarely seen since the original Broadway production.

CHUCK GRAHAM Citizen Drama Critic

Now comes the tough part. After a very successful Tucson debut last April with the musical ”Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” Victory Productions must prove that triumph was no fluke. The local musical theater company has chosen ”West Side Story” as its vehicle.

The venerable show by Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim opens at 8 tomorrow night. Cast as Maria is Carrie Mineck, University of Arizona musical theater graduate just finishing a successful stint in ”Miss Smalltown Rock ‘n’ Roll” at the Gaslight Theatre.

Stephen McLeod, another Tucson resident, will play Tony. He appeared in ”Joseph” and two earlier musicals produced by the Southern Arizona Light Opera Company.

”This show is so different from the first one, it will prove Victory Productions can do everything,” said bright-eyed New Yorker Dennis Courtney, director of both productions. Courtney is also credited with staging several triumphs for the now-defunct SALOC.

”’Joseph’ has no book, no dialogue. It is all music and stage gimmicks. Everything depends on the energy of the performers,” Courtney explained.

”’West Side Story’ is a traditional musical with a heavy book. It requires the performers to create a very wide range of emotions. This is a musical based on Shakespeare.”

Courtney maintains, with unfortunately accurate logic, that this familiar story of rival street gangs on New York’s West Side is more timely today than when it opened on Broadway more than 40 years ago. That’s because street crime, illicit drugs and racial prejudice are even bigger social issues today than in the 1950s.

The most recent film version of ”Romeo and Juliet” rages with rock. All that’s left is for someone to do a rap version of the starcrossed lovers’ sad tale.

Mineck’s theater experience ranges from classical comedy in ”The School For Scandal” to the contemporary musical ”Sunday in the Park with George” to the opera ”La Traviata.” Nevertheless, what she’s been working on the most is her Spanish accent.

”In Tucson, I know the accent has to be right,” she said, laughing.

Emotionally, the most challenging part for Mineck will be the second act. She says Maria must go from singing ”I Feel Pretty” to being left distraught by the murder of her brother and then destroyed by what she believes is Tony’s betrayal. Then there comes the dream ballet sequence.

This ballet, choreographed by Jerome Robbins along with the rest of the show, was cut from the film. Consequently, it has been cut from most subsequent stage productions, says Courtney. Even though the ballet was an important part of the New York stage version, finding ballet dancers in the hinterland isn’t always easy.

Aesthetically, the ballet provides a fantasy of happiness at a time in the story when happiness is impossible. This is what Courtney likes.

”Without the ballet, you don’t get the contrast of teen-agers running away from their problems, which all teens do,” the director said. ”And then being forced back to Earth to deal with reality, which Maria and Tony must do.”


• What: Victory Productions presents ”West Side Story” by Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim.

• When: 8 p.m. Sept. 11-13, 2 p.m Sept. 13-14.

• Where: Music Hall, Tucson Convention Center.

• Tickets: $20 general admission, $18 for senior citizens and children. Telephone 791-4266 for reservations and details.

PHOTO: MARY CHIND/Tucson Citizen

Victory Productions’ cast for ”Westside Story,” which opens tomorrow, includes (from left) Richard Bulda, Cyndee Zaluske, Carrie Mineck and Stephen McLeod.

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