MCMT’s “West Side Story” Opening Night!

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Written by Alicia Walters, @whenintricities. Photography by Casie Davidson: www.casiedavidson.com

It’s the perfect outdoor, summer performance for the whole family! Tickets to “West Side Story” can be purchased ahead of time at mcmt.show/tickets or at the door. Bring a lawn chair or blanket to sit on and come to the Bandshell in Columbia Park. Food and non-alcoholic beverages are welcome. Seating is general admission seating and is first come, first served. House opens at 6:30 pm with live music and show starts at 7:30 pm. Dates are June 22, 23, 28, 29, and 30!

Megan Johnson, director of Mid-Columbia Musical Theater’s production of “West Side Story” brilliantly cast the show with young actors, including high school students from the Tri-cities area while Jill Madison beautifully directs an orchestra of local musicians. The result is a modern, relevant take on a classic musical that engages the audience and re-introduces music that is familiar yet refreshing at the same time.

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“The Jets,” or native gang characters are played by area Caucasian actors and “The Sharks,” or Puerto Rican gang characters are played by area Latino actors. Megan says, “Each gang character is assigned a mirror in the other gang. They’ve worked together, fought together, staged together.” See Tri-city Herald. You can see that while the characters come from different backgrounds, they are really the same—working through similar feelings of fear, insecurity and eventually, growth.

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Tyler Zirker and Cleo Howell star as Tony and Maria. I think their voices complement one another very well. Tyler is a youthful tenor, just perfect for the voice of Tony and Cleo has a beautiful, soprano voice with a vibrato, which reminiscences of a tender, innocent Maria. Assistant director Sergio Bueno plays Shark leader and Maria’s brother Bernardo. Kanisha Castillo plays his girlfriend Anita. Sergio captures Bernardo’s rugged, protective nature and Kanisha has a wonderful voice and stage presence!

Audiences will love the choreography, which is really what brings the show to life! What sets this production apart from others you’ve seen is that it is produced, directed and performed by Tri-city locals and shown in a quintessential Tri-city location—across from the Blue Bridge in Columbia Park. You cannot attend this production without feeling a greater sense of the potential our community has for theater and the arts. We really ought to be doing everything we can to support Mid-Columbia Musical Theater!

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