An Illinois high school has a found a novel way to stage the Laurents / Bernstein / Sondheim musical classic West Side Story, while avoiding ethnic stereotypes.
Alphonse Capone High School Drama Club in suburban Chicago is replacing the traditional Anglo and Puerto Rican gangs with introverts and extroverts.
“We thought this would make the play more relatable,” said Drama Club faculty advisor Ramona Proscenium. “Who doesn’t identify with the group of extroverts dancing across an alley while snapping fingers, or a group of brooding introverts sitting quietly by themselves contemplating violence at a big dance?”
Staging a musical with introvert and extrovert street gangs has not been without challenges. For example, the Introvert gang appears together throughout the show, but only for short periods of time. Said Devin Harris who plays Tony, “My character can take only so much socialization. That’s why he sings most of his songs while reading a book in his bedroom.” The rest of the Introvert gang spends much of the show off stage, trying not to be noticed.
Timothy Cranston who plays Bernardo, the leader or the Extrovert gang says his character is incapable of being alone. “That’s why he’s the last one to leave the dance. You can see the tension build when he realizes he has to dance home, snapping his fingers by himself.”
The show’s most complex charter is Maria, an ambivert portrayed by Lucy Spitsink. “I have a dual personality. One moment I feel pretty. The next I’m oh so pretty. Maria is all over the place. The toughest part is singing duets with Tony since he’s always on the other side of town in his bedroom reading a book. But that’s the magic of theater.
How will the general public react to a West Side Story with Introvert and Extrovert gangs? Ms. Proscenium has her fingers crossed. “I’m hopeful people will be open to the idea, just as I’m hopeful they’ll love next semester’s show, “The Music Transgender Man.”
West Side Story, the introvert, extrovert musical premiers this Friday. Tickets are still available. If you plan to attend with a group please avoid small talk with any introverts who are attending alone.