'West Side Story' to launch at Lyric Opera of Chicago

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A lavish stage production of the beloved musical "West Side Story" is launching in Chicago next week.

The Lyric Opera's new West Side Story brings together a cast of nearly 100 artists and musicians for this 62-year-old Romeo and Juliet tale of New York's backstreets.

"I don't know if there is a way you can describe it," said Corey Cott, who plays Tony. "It certainly was a game-changer in how musicals are perceived and how musicals can tell stories, and even how films can tell stories. Even Martin Scorsese will tell you 'West Side Story' is one of his most influential films in his life."

"Those themes haven't changed today. We are still up against all that it represents," said Mikaela Bennet, who plays Maria. "We're still asking the same questions, still dealing with the same problems in the world. I think love is love and people can always connect with that."

Besides the story and the music, the musicals dance numbers are iconic. Julio Monge is a Puerto Rico-born, New York-based director, choreographer and protégé of Jerome Robbin. He's one of the foremost interpreters of Robbins' original dance moves and claims it helps to have muscle memory.

"He was one of the first American choreographers who mixed their contemporary landscape to that old art form the ballet," Monge said.

"This is my first time seeing the original choreography. I have to say mind-blowing. It's incredible. It's a gift," Bennett said.

The Lyric's "West Side Story" opens May 3 and runs thru June 2. By the way, Stephen Spielberg has a new film version which begins shooting this summer.
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