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Editor’s Column: West Side Story: Remembering Old Passions

By Kassondra Granata

From the age of ten until my senior year of high school, musical theatre was my absolute passion. The moment I stepped on stage for my first production, I was hooked. The lights and the delighted faces in the crowd bewitched me. I took pleasure in performing, whether it was making them laugh or cry. If I touched their lives in any way, I was content.

I would spend my days putting a show together accompanied with jazz squares, songs, dances, etc.  to plunging into different musicals at home, learning different songs and singing throughout the night. My life was theater.

I participated in over twelve productions. Les Miserables, Fame, The Boyfriend, Grease, Oliver!, and Carousel were just a few that I remember off hand. Participating in these plays was beyond rewarding. I acquired a great amount of confidence, self discipline and leadership qualities, as well as independence. Being involved in something so pivotal in my hometown was very beneficial.

When I graduated high school, I found a new passion in journalism. I grew up enjoying writing, but never had the real opportunity to work on my writing skills, plus, I was engrossed in theatre. Early freshman year, I decided that musical theatre would be my “extreme hobby”, and it has been.

This weekend, I had the privilege to attend West Side Story with my significant other and his family at the Palace Theater in Waterbury, CT. I will openly admit that for being such a theater buff I never attended a Broadway production or any show of that standing. This was phenomenal.

West Side Story is based off of a book written by Arthur Laurents. It’s music is written by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. It also happens to be a film, which is where I first discovered the play.

Set in the Upper West Side in New York City in the mid-1950s, West Side Story tells a tale of a rivalry between the Jets and the Sharks, two teenage street gangs of different ethnic backgrounds. The Sharks, a group from Puerto Rico, and the Jets, a group from the Polish-American working class, antagonize each other throughout the play and their animosity result in a rumble, resulting in the death of the group’s two leaders. Tony, one of the Jets, falls in love with Maria, the sister of Bernardo, the leader of the Sharks. Because of their racial differences along with the rivalry, all trouble breaks loose. It’s very Romeo and Juliet-esque, except more modern.

The moment I stepped into the theater I was mesmerized. The beauty of the inside of the theater was overwhelming. The ceiling was absolutely breathtaking, with contrasting patterns and colors with chandeliers hanging down sending a sparkling light flickering on the floors. The Palace interior also accommodated to the approaching holiday season with wreaths, lights, and a gigantic christmas tree above the lobby entrance.

Many distinct themes were presented in West Side Story. Gang violence, racial differences, and social classes were addressed throughout the play. The mixing of Spanish in the lyrics as well as the dialogue was intriguing, and added a different excitement to the play. The cast was excellent and the choreography was phenomenal. It was fascinating to see a play from a viewers point of view, for I always was on stage looking at the audience. It is a different feeling. Knowing all of the hard work that is put into a production, it was gratifying to see that from the other end.

Seeing West Side Story at the Palace Theater made me miss doing theater. I love journalism, and I know I will continue to sing and have an interest in theater. Hopefully I can make a trip this winter to New York City for my first broadway show.