‘West Side Story’ comes to Jerusalem

The greatest of American musical masterpieces’ comes to Beit Hillel, Hebrew University, Mt. Scopus for nine performances.

November 17, 2018 05:29
3 minute read.
‘West Side Story’ comes to Jerusalem

West Side Story. (photo credit: AHARON BENAFSHI)


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Rare are the musicals that are never outdated, never out of step, never irrelevant. The legendary West Side Story is perhaps the most outstanding and profound of those that qualify. No other musical drama raises the complex issues of intolerance, race, and tragic love, in such a masterpiece of poignant music and dance. West Side Story’s theme originates from the classic Romeo and Juliet, which first premiered on Broadway in 1957. It still retains the same intense energy and message, as if it were just written. The collaboration of Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim and Jerome Robbins has produced a musical singular in nature that has withstood the test of time.

Michael Berl, Founder and Director of the Beit Hillel Theater Workshop, admits that he was uncertain that his cast would live up to the demands of the famouse musical. “I knew at the outset that this would be our greatest challenge to date. After several seasons of performances that engaged all ages, it was time to present something with a more serious message and complex storyline. I reviewed the movie and script several times and almost decided to change shows. The music and dance routines are of the most complex in all of musical theater. Professionals have difficulties with the dances - and we are amateur performers. But the cast accepted the challenge, invested the time in intense rehearsals, and are ready to show the results of 5 months of grueling rehearsals. Songs like Tonight, Maria, Somewhere, and I have a love bring a tear to the eyes. Officer Krupke brings comic relief to a tense moment in the story. The dance movements in America and the Dance at the Gym are filled with electric energy. It’s hard to believe that a work that is 61 years old shows no sign of age. By all estimations it certainly has earned the terms classic and iconic musical theater.”

The Story in Brief - The Jets, a selfstyled “American” street gang and the Sharks, a group of immigrant Puerto Ricans vie for control of the streets in a downtrodden section of the West Side of Manhattan. At a dance at the local gym Riff, commander of the Jets, challenges Bernardo, leader of the Sharks, to an all-out fight for control of the streets. Riff summons Tony, his best friend and former Jet leader, to assist by attending the dance and standing by him for support. At the dance Tony sees Maria for the first time. Their eyes meet and they instantly fall in love – much to the chagrin of Bernardo, her brother. The two stories, the intolerance of the two gangs to each other, and the romance of Tony and Maria collide and merge into one story with a tragic ending.

The thirty-person cast includes both Hillel veterans and new Hillel thespians: Shani Wahrman (Guys and Dolls, The Sound of Music and Beauty & the Beast) stars as Maria, Alon Aviv (Guys and Dolls, Beauty & the Beast, Hello Dolly) is Tony, Shelly Ozeri makes her debut as Anita, Michael Eden (Cinderella) is Bernardo, Kovi Fine makes his debut as Riff, and Hillel’s senior member Bryan Friedland doubles as Doc and Officer Krupke.

For this unique event, Michael Berl and Miriam Wartski direct a cast of thirty. Adina Feldman choreographs, and Shelly Binman makes his Hillel debut as Music Director and accompanist. Five musicians are in the ensemble. Of particular note is that 95% of the cast are native born Israelis performing in an English language production. It’s a great night of entertainment and musical joy. Don’t miss it!

December 3,5,6,9,10. Reservations online at https:/ticks.co.il/e/ WWPfGatU51 or call 055-9372156 or 055-9372173.

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