Heidi Zemach for SCN –
Three SUV mini-vans filled with Seward residents traveled to Anchorage with the TRAILS program to see the Leonard Bernstein musical West Side Story at the Anchorage Performing Arts Center Sunday, January 19th. The TRAILS (Total Recreation and Independent Living Services) program promotes fun, safe, adaptive and inclusive recreational opportunities for people of all abilities. The concert tickets were funded through donations and grants, so the only cost was a share in the transportation.
This well-known Broadway musical, set in the mean streets of New York City’s upper west side in the late-1950s, tells of arch rivalry between two teenage street gangs who come from different ethnic backgrounds, the Jets versus the Sharks, and the thwarted love between Maria and Tony that mirrors Shakespeare tragedy Romeo and Juliet.
Some in the Seward group already knew the musical well, or they knew some of its hit songs such as: “Tonight,” “I feel pretty” and “America.” But seeing it live on stage was a much more powerful, moving experience, they said. The show also brought home the tragedy of social intolerance of people’s differences, and reminders of how the age-old story rings true today.
It was a top quality production with terrific stage sets, well-choreographed dances and stage-fights. One local teen said she screamed when the gun went off, it was so real. This 2014 national touring production featured more Spanish, both spoken and sung, than the original production had, and the Puerto Ricans were mostly played by actors and actresses with Hispanic surnames. Transgender issues also were highlighted when the tomboyish girl (Rosalie Graziano) who wanted to be included and accepted into the Jets gang, joined Tony and Maria in singing a second rendition of the promise of a more accepting society, “Somewhere.” Graziano is a NYU musical theater major on her first national tour, and suddenly hearing her pure, strong singing voice for the first time made jaws drop.
TRAILS activities are participant-driven, and include dip net fishing, horseback riding, dog sledding, and more. The group’s next big trip is Challenge Alaska for snowboarding, skiing and sit-skiing in February at the Alyeska Resort (weather permitting), and participating in the Mayor’s Cup dogsled event at the Seavey homestead near Seward.