“West Side Story” was the last show legendary Staples Players director Al Pia did, before retiring in 1996.
David Roth took over 4 years later. He’s waited 11 years to direct it — because he wanted to do it right.
This year, Roth has the actors — and singers and dancers — to do “West Side Story.” Of course, the same teenagers perform all those roles.
Even in a program as storied as Staples’, that’s no easy task.
From all indications, though, the show — which opens Friday, and continues this weekend and next — could be the biggest blockbusters in Players’ 53-year history.
Roth warned his young cast that their commitment would be “tremendous.”
“They rehease every single day, either acting, singing or dancing,” the director explains. “Most musicals seldom need so many people involved in all 3.”
Roth says that “Romeo and Juliet” — the foundation of the “West Side Story” story — has always been important to him and assistant director Kerry Long.
“We constantly go back to Shakespeare,” he says, whether helping Tony and Maria create their characters, or in exploring subtext with the cast.
“It’s a beautiful show,” he notes. In addition to superb dancing and singing, there’s innovative lighting, a spare but transforming set, and impressive costumes. The pit orchestra — as always — is incomparable.
Ticket sales for opening weekend have broken all records, Roth says. He’s not surprised.
“It’s a really important show to a lot of people. The movie and record are iconic to an entire generation.”
And — circling back to The Bard — Roth says, “It’s a testament to the timelessness of ‘Romeo and Juliet.’ It’s the classic love story, and this is a terrific retelling of it.”
(“West Side Story” dates are November 11, 12, 17, 18 and 19 at 7:30 p.m., and November 13 at 2 p.m. The best seats available now are for the Thursday, November 17 show. Click here for ticket information.)