Vancouver Opera goes West Side Story

I saw Vancouver Opera's West Side
Story on Wednesday night.  It is wonderful!

West Side Story
Vancouver Opera
Elizabeth Theatre October 22 – 29, 2011

The talented cast and crew brings the
gritty reality of ethnic clashing in multicultural inner city. This is the 1957 classic composed by Leonard Bernstein with lyrics by a young Stephen Sondheim.  Vancouver Opera has thankfully decided to use the original dance choreography by Jerome Robbins. 

It is a well-done production that every musical theatre student should see.  And judging by the audience, many young theatre and musical students were there.  It is a treat to see a full production treatment of West Side Story, instead of a community or high school theatre production.  Everything sparkles and sings in its detail.

The stage design is set amongst graffittied walls of urban renewal – it could be contemporary Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.  A few figures slink along the chain link fence, as one youth climbs over it.  These are the Jets, a neighborhood gang. They taunt a hispanic person walking through their “turf”, who returns with members of his own.  There is no singing or talking, just the balletically stylized leaps and jumps by the gang members scrimmaging against each other.  This is what Bruce Springsteen wrote about in his song Jungleland:

“The midnight gangs assembled and picked a rendezvous for the night
meet `neath that giant Exxon sign that brings this fair city light
there's an opera out on the turnpike
There's a ballet being fought
out in the alley
Until the local cops, cherry tops, rips this holy

The singing by the multitercultural cast includes is lead by Italian-Canadian
LUCIA CESARONI as Maria.  She is a strong soprano, and her speaking voice is a strong Puerto Rican accent.

ROBYN WONG as Consuelo, and many more. 

Wish we
could see more art about contemporary life issues- maybe Occupy Wall
Street will become an opera, similar to Vancouver Opera's recent productions of Lillian
Alling, and Nixon in China. There are recent stories about a national remount of Louis Riel.  There have been recent operas in Canada about Pierre Eliot Trudeau and Brian Mulroney…. But my dream wish opera would be – a Terry Fox
I wonder if it is applicable to 21st Century Vancouver…
imagine if Vancouver had ethnic gang wars, and new immigrants named
Maria, trying to integrate into Vancouver Mainstream Multicultural
society… by intercultural dating…

I have always fantasized there should be an
East Side Story set in Vancouver… about a young Chinese-Canadian man, maybe
who plays the accordion… and one day a young Italian-Canadian woman
hears him playing… and falls in love with him. Her name is Maria…
Maria… he just meets a girl named Maria…

Or it could be a Maria who has just arrived from the Phillipines? And her brother Bernardo is in a Phillipine gang that is struggling with finding their own place in the Asian-Canadian landscape against multigenerational Chinese-Canadian gangs.

It isn't that far removed an idea – especially when the Greater Vancouver area has news stories of gang fights between Filipino, Vietnamese and other ethnic groups, as well as organized gangs.

My review to be continued and will posted later today….

check out Vancouver Opera

West Side Story
Vancouver Opera
Queen Elizabeth Theatre October 22 –

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