West Side Story – A Classic Comes to Life at the Lyric Opera

When it first opened on Broadway in 1957, West Side Story was a fresh new face in an urban setting, without the traditional happy musical ending. Nonetheless, this epic love story with music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, book by Arthur Laurents, and original choreography by Jerome Robbins, has endured for more than 60 years. Sadly, racism, intolerance, and fear of immigrants continue to rear its ugly head today, making this story even more timely and relevant than ever.

Corey Cott as Tony and Mikaela Bennett as Maria in Lyric Opera’s production of “West Side Story.”

With the first snap of their fingers, the actors let the audience knows who’s boss. The Lyric’s new grand-scale production of the world’s most glorious music is off and running with two of Broadway’s finest voices: Corey Cott as Tony and rising star Mikaela Bennett as Maria. Their on-stage chemistry as the star-crossed lovers is powerful and passionate. Bennett has a beautiful, strong voice with a touch of vulnerability. Cott is an authentic Tony as there ever was, convincing us of his love-at-first-site for Maria. Amanda Castro as Anita has the dance moves with more of an authentic Latin beat than before and Manuel Stark Santos as Bernardo is tough as nails in his hatred of the Jets.

Lyric Opera Chicago, West Side Story. © Todd Rosenberg Photography 2019

With a cast of nearly 100 talented artists and musicians, the Lyric’s magnificent production brings gritty new energy to West Side Story. Iconic songs such as “America,” “I Feel Pretty,” “Maria,” and others bring Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet to the gangs of New York City, perfectly integrating dialogue, music, and dance. One can feel their own pulse racing as “Tonight” begins its crescendo. Jerome Robbins’ original choreography has been recreated for the Lyric’s production by Julio Monge who’s added a whole new level of athleticism, gymnastics and ballet-based movement.

Lyric Opera Chicago, West Side Story. © Todd Rosenberg Photography

West Side Story is a coproduction between Lyric Opera of Chicago, Houston Grand Opera, and Glimmerglass Festival. Internationally acclaimed opera and theater director Francesca Zambello, who also serves as the artistic director of the Glimmerglass Festival and Washington National Opera, returns to Lyric Opera as director. Set designs by Peter J. Davison create the dark side of the city, with brightly colored and coordinated costumes by Jessica Jahn, in perfect harmony to the choreography. The production features members of the gorgeous Lyric Opera Chorus and Orchestra, conducted by James Lowe.


In the end, you’ll leave knowing that not much has changed, but the uplifting music will stay etched in your mind forever.

Performances run through June 2, 2019, at the Lyric Opera House, 20 N. Wacker Drive, Chicago. Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased online or by calling 312-827-5600.



Featured Image Credit: West Side Story Facebook


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