‘West Side Story’ messages remain fresh

Every once in a while a show comes along, so trailblazing, so brilliant, that it changes the face of musical theater. “West Side Story” is one of these shows.

Since its Broadway debut in 1957, “West Side Story” has dazzled audiences around the world with its splashy dance numbers, timeless music created by Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim, and heart-wrenching story written by Arthur Laurents. This classic musical’s national touring production will come to Penn State on Nov. 19, when “West Side Story comes to the Eisenhower Auditorium.

The show is an urban take on Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” and is set in 1950s-era New York City. In spite of the the show’s classic literature inspiration and retro time frame, Jarrad Biron Green, who plays the leading role of Tony in the production, said the musical is still relevant.

“This show has so many important messages about love, you know, conquering in a world of violence and bigotry and hate and all that, and there’s just so many lessons that can be learned from this show,” he said. “It’s just a very important, timeless love story that I think many people will enjoy and hopefully, you know, it will inspire them to do something or make a change.”

Green said updates to the production aim to make the story seem more authentic, mainly because of the ethnicity of some of the more prominent characters.

“This production is based off the Broadway revival production from 2009, so it has an updated book that has tweaked dialogue and has added more Spanish into it, so 10 percent of the script, including the lyrics, is spoken or sung in Spanish. And it’s more of a contemporary grittier edgier version in the end.”

“West Side Story” cast members Shaun Repetto and Jonathan Freeland will host an “Artistic Viewpoints” discussion an hour before the show.