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“West Side Story” in the Middle East

Posted on 06 September 2009 by Deborah Friedes Galili

West Side Story

West Side Story.  Courtesy of Ora Lapidot.

Though I typically write about contemporary dance, I branched out to do an article about the musical West Side Story for the Jerusalem Post.  I always enjoy interviewing people involved with the production for these newspaper articles, and for this story, I got a treat: two interviews!

First I spoke with resident director Mascha Pörzgen, who gave me some great background about this revival of the classic Broadway production.  Then I had a stimulating conversation with Scott Sussman, who told me enthusiastically about his path to playing Tony.  We also spoke about the history of West Side Story and marveled at Jerome Robbins’ connection to dance in Israel (Robbins, who directed and choreographed the original West Side Story, was sent by the America Israel Foundation to check out the young country’s dance scene in 1951; upon his recommendation, American choreographer Anna Sokolow came to coach the Inbal Dance Theater).

After talking with both Mascha and Scott, I couldn’t wait to see West Side Story – and since attending the preview last week, I’ve been constantly humming the musical’s memorable tunes.  You can catch the run of West Side Story at the Opera House through the 14th.

This article was first published in the Jerusalem Post.

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West Side Story in the Middle East

West Side Story has always been very special to me because it’s actually the score that I grew up on, and it’s how I learned to sing . . . I’ve been singing “Maria” every day of my life since I was 14 years old,” Scott Sussman reveals.  For the last few years, Sussman has been singing “Maria” onstage while playing Tony in an international tour of West Side Story – and from September 2-14, he’ll be singing “Maria” here in Israel when the production comes to Tel Aviv’s Opera House.

Since its premiere on Broadway in 1957, West Side Story has won audience’s hearts with its modern twist on Shakespeare’s classic Romeo and Juliet.  With New York street gangs replacing the Montagues and Capulets, and with ethnic tensions rather than family rivalries, the protagonists’ love story became not just tragic but relevant for contemporary viewers.

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