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West Side Story’ rumbles into Columbus

Courtesy of Carol Rosegg

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“West Side Story” is coming to downtown Columbus.

The touring cast of the Grammy award-winning musical, “West Side Story,” is performing at the Ohio Theatre. Its run started Tuesday and will conclude Sunday.

The love story of “Romeo and Juliet” puts a new face on the streets of New York City during the 1950s as tensions rise between two opposing groups: the Sharks and Jets. Maria (a Shark), equivalent to Juliet, is forced to choose between the man she loves, Tony (a Jet), and the Puerto Rican culture to which she belongs.

Ross Lekites, who stars as Tony in the production, said this is his first time acting in a production of “West Side Story,” and he is thankful to be surrounded by talented castmates.

“I truly couldn’t have asked for a better way to be introduced to ‘West Side Story,'” he said in an email.

Evy Ortiz, who is staring as Maria, one of her dream roles, has been in one other production of “West Side Story” with a regional theater company in Indianapolis.

As an American of Puerto Rican heritage, Ortiz drew on personal experience for inspiration for her character.

“My grandparents came to America from Puerto Rico in the 1950s and they’ve shared some stories with me,” she said in an email. “I draw inspiration from parts of my life, of feeling nervous about being in a new place.”

Lekites said he didn’t approach his character based on the movie or original actor portrayals.

“I think the important thing to show in Tony’s character is his optimism,” he said in an email.

The audience can expect to hear songs from the original soundtrack, such as “Somewhere,” “America” and “I Feel Pretty.”

“Somewhere” is Lekites’s favorite musical number in the show.

“The song is about the hope that someday, somewhere, there will be a place for us to do what we want, be with who we want, without prejudice,” he said in an email.

Katie Howard, a third-year in theatre and journalism, said she has seen the movie “West Side Story,” but has never seen it performed on stage. She will be attending this production of the musical for a Theatre 674 class assignment.

“I think it would be cool to see it on stage live to compare it to the movie,” she said.

Andrew Factor, a second-year in theatre, said he is excited about the staging and choreography of this particular production of “West Side Story.”

“Leonard Bernstein’s music is complex, Stephen Sondheim’s lyrics are witty and the staging of this production in particular is different than any other production of the show to date,” he said in an email.

Tickets for the performance begin at $28 and are available for purchase at the Ohio Theatre Box Office and all Ticketmaster outlets.

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