‘West Side Story’ readies final weekend | ParkRecord.com

‘West Side Story’ readies final weekend

Scott Iwasaki

Director Morgan Parry is delighted with how the Ziegfeld Theater Company’s production of "West Side Story" turned out.

"This is a beautiful show and the cast is unbelievable," Parry told The Park Record. "I’m proud of them and honored to be part of this amazing production."

"West Side Story," which debuted in 1957, with music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, tells the story of two rival gangs in New York.

Park City audiences will get one more weekend, one more chance, to see the musical at the Egyptian Theatre. The final run dates are Thursday through Sunday.

Parry said it’s always fun to bring the show to Park City after its initial run in the company’s home theater in Ogden.

The main reason is the different audience reactions.

"When we performed it in Ogden, we had huge laughs to the funny bits, but the show rarely received a standing ovation," she said. "In Park City, the reactions to the funny parts weren’t as loud, so all of the cast didn’t think the audience liked it, but the minute the curtain call came, the audience was on its feet."

The Ziegfeld Theater Company selected to present "West Side Story" last year for this year’s season, and it couldn’t have happened at a better time considering the discussions regarding race relations and immigration that have swept the United States these past few months.

However, even before the country’s racial tension started bubbling to the surface, Parry had a vision of what she wanted to accomplish with the show.

"I believe that theater and art in general should pull some type of emotional reaction from people that motivates them to be better in their lives," she said. "It should also motivate them towards change.

"I think that any musical that has made it, even if it’s silly or funny, always has an underlying beautiful message that we can learn from," Parry said. "’West Side Story,’ being a tragedy, definitely presents that message of what types of choices can we make that are better and would create a positive outcome."

For starters, Parry wanted the production to relate to the modern day.

"I wanted to give it an ambiguous time setting and we did that with the costumes," she said. "There is a little vintage feeling to them so that the setting could be in the 1960s, but the setting could also be current."

Parry also wanted people to think about the generalizations and stereotypes they usually think of when they see or meet who come from divers backgrounds.

"I want people to think about where the basis of these stereotypes comes from, whether it’s from a place of love or a place of hate," she said. "This musical has such a beautiful story that shows the outcome of what happens when we form these stereotypes from a place of fear or hate."

However, in this tragedy, the main characters, Tony and Maria, find love.

"Since they can look at each other through love, they see no race, no language barrier and suddenly become one," Parry explained. "They can take down all the walls and start to see the beauty of each others’ cultures.

"Falling on love is such a story," she said. "It doesn’t matter if you’re watching ‘Romeo & Juliet’ that is set in the 1400s or that you’re watching ‘West Side Story’ set in the 1960s. It’s still the story about falling in love."

That was the biggest lesson Parry wanted to convey.

"I wanted to put that into people’s hearts when they see the show," she said. "I wanted them to wonder why can’t we be more like Tony and Maria all the time."

To do that, Parry worked closely with choreographer Talese Hunt and musical director Rick Rhea, because the dancing and music are the two most iconic aspects of the show.

"Our choreographer, being incredibly talented, was able to pull a lot of the original dancing, but added some contemporary moves into the choreography," Parry said. "That kept the dances iconic, but also helped the audience feel the emotions through the dance.

"Rick was able to bring out the best in the actors and they were able to convey their emotions in these songs that people have ears over and over again," she said. "It was wonderful to work with these actors as well."

Ziegfeld Theater Company’s production of "West Side Story" will make its final run from Thursday, July 23, through Sunday, July 26. Tickets are available by visiting http://www.parkcityshows.com.