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A classic musical that never
goes out of style

"West Side Story"
Cadillac Palace Theatre
Chicago, IL
July 20, 2011
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Story by Andy Argyrakis
Publicity photos

When "West Side Story" first took to Broadway in 1957, it ran for 732 performances becoming one of the most groundbreaking and beloved spectacles of its time. But when it opened again in the Big Apple in 2009, it ran even longer (748 performances through the tip of 2011 to be exact) suggesting that audiences are even more interested these days then they were the first go around.

In keeping with that trend, the musical turned movie turned stage reprise is back on tour, landing at Chicago's Cadillac Palace Theatre through August 14 to introduce the increasingly touching tale to new generations. Set in New York circa the 1950s, the show speaks of rival gangs from Puerto Rican and Caucasian backgrounds (known respectively as the Sharks and the Jets). Throughout the slew of Shakespearean parallels, the tension is constantly building, spurred by the interracial love interest of Tony (one of the Jets) who falls head over heels for Maria (the sister of the Sharks leader).

Along with the compelling story comes the equally enduring soundtrack that features music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics from Stephen Sondheim. "Maria" helped flesh out the main female character, "America" focused on her people's quest for freedom (romantic and otherwise), while "Cool" temporarily suppressed the insuring gang warfare that eventually explodes. The second half's songs were even stronger, from the carefree, Spanglish version of "I Feel Pretty," to the iconic ballad of escapism "Somewhere" and the tear-jerking "A Boy Like That/I Have a Love," which helps advance the lesson that violence for violence only causes more heartbreak for everyone.

Of course, the plot and subsequent soundtrack are only as solid as the cast presenting them, and though this ensemble wasn't perfect (a boyish Riff was hardly believable as a gang leader), there was still plenty of passion and emotion (especially from the chemistry-filled leads of Tony and Maria). Along with true to form takes on the clever chorography and equally complicated fight scenes, it's easy to see why this edition took home both Tony and Grammy nods and remains one of the most treasured musicals in history.

"West Side Story" continues at the Cadillac Palace Theatre in Chicago through August 14. For additional details, visit or

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