By Bailey Kadian, Daily Arts Writer
Published May 20, 2015
Ann Arbor in Concert showcases the immense amount of talent in the area through performing musicals in a concert format. Audiences are able to see some of their favorite musicals in a way that is both engaging and dynamic, featuring large dance and choral ensembles, a live orchestra and lead actors. A2IC proudly donates a portion of their sales toward scholarships to benefit the local performing arts community.
West Side Story
May 30, 8 p.m.
Power Center for the Performing Arts
$15 for students and seniors, $25-$50 for adults
Director Mike Mosallam and Executive Director Eric Lofstrom co-founded the organization. “(It began) with the idea of doing a show that was easy for people to be a part of and didn’t require much or a long commitment,” said Mosallam
By using a concert format, shows are more easily produced, and the organization plans to continue to broaden the spectrum of shows offered in concert format.
“The ‘in concert’ notion is a bit of a misnomer,” Mosallam said. “In the sense that it does not mean we are not fully realizing the production. What it means is that we are enlarging the choir, who is supporting the vocal of the score and highlighting the orchestra by placing them on stage with the performers and making sure that the score of the show is the star vehicle.”
A2IC’s current production is "West Side Story," composed of a talented cast from the Ann Arbor and southeast Michigan area. A2IC has created a strong relationship with University students from The School of Music, Theatre and Dance and members of the Ann Arbor community, such as public high school teachers. Even the mayor of Ann Arbor, Christopher Taylor, is part of the cast of "West Side Story."
“We have a long history of doing productions in AA and what has always astounded us is the talent in our backyard,” Mosallam said, which has driven the success of this organization.
"West Side Story" calls for a cast with large vocal ranges, strong dance numbers, and the ability to express a variety of emotions through the complexity of the story. A2IC fully recognizes these elements and has the cast to support what this musical calls for.
Set in the Upper West Side neighborhood of New York City in the 1950s, "West Side Story" explores a rivalry between the Jets and the Sharks, two teenage gangs, of different ethnic backgrounds — the Jets caucasian and the Sharks Puerto Rican. Loosely following Shakespeare’s "Romeo And Juliet," this musical tells the story of emerging love among conflicting groups. Tony, the protagonist, falls in love with Maria, the sister of Bernado, who is the leader of the Sharks. Tony is a former member of the Jets, and his best friend Riff is the leader of the gang. The story explores how both gangs’ conflicting interests hinder the ability to pursue love.
In 1957, the original Broadway production gained immense success and was nominated for six Tony Awards, running 732 performances before touring. Directed and choreographed by Jerome Robbins, with music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, this score has become recognized world-wide as one of the best of Broadway, including songs such as “America,” “Somewhere,” “Maria” and “I Feel Pretty.”
“What makes the piece so wonderful is the fact that it's timeless," Mosallam said. “I feel like you could set 'West Side Story' in any era, any time, at any point and it really rings so true to what is happening here in the world.”
The cast has discovered through discussions in rehearsal that the themes of the show are relevant and mirror much of what is going on in our world today. "West Side Story" explores themes such as believing in love and wanting a place to belong. This show analyzes the question of how our parents view the world and, in turn, how we behave within the world.
“Are we bad, so people tell us we are bad? Or do people tell us we are bad, thus we become bad?” Mosallam asked while discussing questions that have emerged in rehearsals.
As a classic piece, "West Side Story" comes with expectations.
“I don’t want to live within the world of 'West Side Story,' ” Mosallam said. “I want to live within our own world, and what is going on in the show is exactly what is going on today.”
Theater provides a way for people to go to a show and, according to Mosallam, be “emotionally struck by things that they find familiar.” "West Side Story" illustrates that motive, and A2IC will no doubt express the relevance and importance of these themes through a complex and engaging production featuring incredible talent from those in the Ann Arbor area.
For those interested in donating to A2IC, there is a $100 donation option, which buys an invitation to the pre-show gala reception and VIP seating for the best seats in the house. The gala reception will be held in the lobby of the Power Center at 6 p.m. on May 30.