Michelle Alves says she first saw the film “West Side Story” when she was 5 years old and dreamed of playing the role of Anita ever since. Now she is living her dream in a national tour of the Broadway revival of “West Side Story.” The musical opens Tuesday, June 4 and runs through Sunday, June 9 at Clowes Memorial Hall on the campus on Butler University.
Alves, like her idol Rita Moreno, who won an Oscar in 1961 for her portrayal of Anita in the film, is a native of Puerto Rico. Starting her show business career when she was 16, Alves was a backup dancer for artists such as the Black Eyed Peas, Ricky Martin, Nelly Furtado and Pit Bull before she landed roles in Broadway shows such as “Rent,” “Hair,” “Nine,” “Hairspray” and “Chicago.”
“This is my dream role. It’s a dream come true every night to get to play this beautiful character. I am more than grateful and thankful,” says Alves, who spoke by phone recently with usedview.com while on the road.
This is Alves’ first national tour and one which started October 29, 2012, and has taken her and 32 cast mates who travel by bus to cities all over North America. “It’s tough. I can’t say that it is easy to do. It’s really exhausting but I do get to see so many beautiful landscapes and places I have never been, and the real treasure is that I get to perform every night.”
It is understandable that Alves treasures her experience considering that the classic “West Side Story,” which premiered on Broadway in 1957, continues to excite and move audiences with its energetic choreography, music and emotional story. A modern-day “Romeo and Juliet,” set in Brooklyn, N.Y., it’s a tragic love tale about two doomed lovers, Tony and Maria, who struggle to grow a relationship within an environment poisoned by racial intolerance.
Written by Arthur Laurents, the show’s score, composed by Leonard Bernstein (music) and Stephen Sondheim (lyrics), is considered to be one of Broadway’s finest and features such classics of the American musical theater as “Something’s Coming,” “Tonight,” “America,” “I Feel Pretty” and “Somewhere.”
For this Broadway in Indianapolis presentation, Laurents’ Broadway direction is recreated by David Saint, the associate director on Broadway. The original Jerome Robbins choreography is reproduced by Tony Award-nominee Joey McKneely. “West Side Story” features scenic designs by James Youmans, costumes by Tony Award-nominee David C. Woolard, lighting by Tony Award-winner Howell Binkley and sound design by Peter McBoyle.
Alves, who is one of nine Latinos in the show, says that one of the reasons the show still resonates with audiences is because its message is still relevant: “Racism still exists in this country, as evidenced by the controversy over immigration. For Latinos it is really sad that we are still dealing with this social problem, but a show like ‘West Side Story’ is still valuable because it offers hope for a better world.”
Tickets for “West Side Story” are available in person at the Broadway Across America box office downtown at 342 Massachusetts Avenue, Clowes Memorial Hall, the Old National Centre ticket office, online at BroadwayinIndianapolis.com or by phone at 1-800-982-2787.
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