MILWAUKEE — Steven Spielberg's remake of “West Side Story” is set to hit the big screen in December. However before the movie arrives in theaters, the classic musical from the 1950's will return to the stage at Milwaukee Repertory Theater. This too will be a remake, true to the story but with a complete reboot.
Jon Rua, an original cast member of the Broadway smash “Hamilton,” is choreographing the show and rebuilding the dance from the ground up. “To recreate the entire show, basically is what we're doing,” said Rua with less than two weeks before opening night.
“With the exception of the script, physically we're recreating the show. We're having some undertones and some choices that speak to a new depiction of it. A new perspective. A new lens,” said Rua.
The actors raved about the opportunity to work with Rua, experience his unique teaching style. “He just is talking to us like we're his friends,” said Jeffrey Kringer, who plays Tony in the show. “That's the type of artistic community that you want to be a part of.”
Liesl Collazo plays Maria. “He's created a movement that just feels so natural to us,” she described. “In these moments with a push and a pull. Sometimes it’s fast and sometimes we're just kind of frozen. He just taps into that in such a way,” she said.
Collazo, born in Puerto Rico, chuckled that everyone in Milwaukee has been, “so friendly,” to her. She is also very proud of the authentic casting in the show. “The fact that they cast all of the Latino roles with Latino people. It's huge for us. It's very emotional for us.”
The cast says that it's an important time to tell “West Side Story.” They all remain well aware that racial tensions and immigration issues are top of mind and conversation in the US right now. “I think there's always a good time to encourage connection and to work against discrimination, yes, but also being divisible into factions. I think the story encourages looking at what unites us rather than what divides us,” Kringer said.
Tinkering with a classic is risky territory. The Rep. hopes fans will appreciate the updated dancing. Rua, of Broadway fame, believes he can put on a New York quality show, right here in Milwaukee. “The team is encouraging and supporting my vision and I guess, Milwaukee provides a platform for innovative work.”
“West Side Story” opens September 17th at the Rep, and runs through October.
For show times and ticket information, click here.