Something’s coming to Sunnyvale very soon

By Ande Jacobson

As Stephen Sondheim wrote back in 1957,

“Could it be? Yes it could.
Something’s coming, something good.”

And his work is coming to Sunnyvale Community Players (SCP) on September 11, 2021 and running through October 3, 2021.

After over 18 months, SCP is returning to its home at the Sunnyvale Community Theater, live, to present a work as relevant and timely today as it was when it first opened on Broadway in 1957. West Side Story is a story of forbidden love and the need for acceptance amidst societal turmoil. This musical with its classic score by the incomparable Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, book by Arthur Laurents, and choreography by Jerome Robbins is a challenging undertaking for any theater company. It’s a big show in every sense of the word, and the SCP cast is 35 strong supported by a live, 20-piece orchestra. The material is technically challenging and emotionally charged, and everyone is ready and eager to perform this exciting work for live audiences.

The show was written during the heat of the civil rights movement, and even though it opened 64 years ago, the themes, the divisions, and the hopes are just as pressing today in America and in the world at large. The story is a modernized version of Romeo and Juliet transported to the streets of New York. The families are two rival gangs broken along racial lines, a division that’s still all too familiar in 21st century America. The action shows the survival struggle up close, and it takes audiences on a breathtaking journey of discovery through brilliant acting and captivating music and dance.

The artistic staff includes:

  • Director: Thomas Times
  • Choreographer: Marcie Shapiro
  • Vocal Director: Mary Carroll
  • Music Director: Kevin Surace
  • Intimacy Director: Stacey Levin

Thomas Times cast the show beautifully with a mix of talented actors from SCP shows past combined with many faces new to SCP. He was committed to casting the show with full diversity and is proud to have assembled a cast that is majority BIPOC. This show requires true “triple threats” given the challenging music, athletic dance numbers, and taut, emotional story arcs. For the full cast list, see: West Side Story cast.

Kevin Surace has assembled an impressive orchestra that can handle this difficult score with finesse. Because the 20-piece ensemble is too big for the pit, he spreads the orchestra out with players not only in the pit, but also in the downstage wings as he has done for a number of other large scale shows with SCP. This affords the musicians sufficient room to play comfortably and safely.

For this show, SCP has included an intimacy director. This is a specialty that has been used in film for only a few years recently and helps provide additional support to the actors to ensure they handle intimate scenes comfortably and safely while helping them tune their performances to better create the appropriate emotional impact for the audience. Stacey Levin is thrilled to be SCP’s first intimacy director for this classic show.

The creative team members speak to the show’s significance at this time in history and the vision they have for this production in the promotional videos linked below.

Thomas Times – Director:

Marcie Shapiro – Choreographer:

Mary Carroll – Vocal Director:

Kevin Surace – Music Director:

Stacey Levin – Intimacy Director:

The orchestra includes:

  • Music Director/Conductor: Kevin Surace
  • Bass (1/performance): Gus Kambeitz, Alonso Sanchez, Andrew Lawrence
  • Drums: Bruce Campbell
  • Percussion: Peter Wallack
  • Mallet Percussion (1/performance): Niles Flynn, Christine Lovejoy
  • Guitars: Ryoto Sato
  • Piano/Synth: Pauline Samson
  • Trumpets: Kevin Kono, Jacob Jackman
  • Trombone (1/performance): Jason Loveman, Don Brownson
  • Horn: Jerry Simon
  • Reeds (1/part): Reed 1 – Antony Picard; Reed 2 – Asa Stern; Reed 3 – Renee Canto Adams, Richard Krishnan; Reed 4 – Mark Beyer; Reed 5 (bassoon) – Gail Selburn, Noah Cort
  • Cello: Annette Deschon
  • Violins: Nathaniel Mailoa, Jamie Yuen, Faye Yang, Marilyn Anderson

Tickets are available online or by phone at 408-733-6611. The show runs Thursdays – Sundays, 11 September – 3 October 2021.

Performances are at the Sunnyvale Community Theatre located at: 550 E. Remington Dr., Sunnyvale CA 94087.

SCP would have liked to have offered both in-person and streaming options to their audiences to accommodate those who are anxious to get out and about as well as those who aren’t quite ready to attend in-person just yet. Unfortunately due to the upcoming release of the Steven Spielberg remake of the 1961 classic film of the same name due out in December 2021, Music Theatre International (MTI) isn’t allowing that, so if you want to see this production, you’ll have to come to the Sunnyvale Community Theater during its run.

Despite not being able to offer a streaming option, SCP is taking COVID-19 safety seriously following all CDC, State, and Local safety guidelines for the safety of its audiences, actors, musicians, and staff. To that end, audience members will need to provide proof of vaccination to attend and will need to wear a mask at all times when in the building. Any patron not complying with the mask rules will be ejected. Because of the vaccination requirement, children under 12 cannot be admitted.

All company members have not only been fully vaccinated, they are tested weekly. While actors will not be masked while onstage, nor will many of the musicians while playing, they will be masked otherwise, and everyone else in the company such as crew and staff will be required to wear masks at all times when in the building. No food or water will be allowed in the auditorium. Further, to allow more separation between the performers and audience members, the front row will not be accessible to the audience.

Please join Sunnyvale Community Players for this production. West Side Story is an important piece of theater, and it reminds us all that we really are more the same than we are different. We can learn a lot from Romeo and Juliet, or Tony and Maria to overcome the artificial divisions that stand in our way to understanding and accepting one another.


References:
West Side Story (Movie)
West Side Story (Cast Recording)
West Side Story (Vocal Score)

(Photos and videos courtesy of Sunnyvale Community Players)


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