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Guthrie Theater Presents “West Side Story”

Article and photos by Merle Minda

Guthrie Theater Presents “West Side Story”

Theater event of the summer opens June 22nd


Show logo of red and white roses on a chain-link fence. Photo: Guthrie Theater 

The Guthrie Theater musical this year presents one of the great classics of Broadway and the American Theater: “West Side Story”, which first opened in 1957 and set the Broadway world alight with its originality, gorgeous music by Leonard Bernstein, spectacular choreography and the heart-rending story of two lovers divided by race and background. Using the basic story of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet”, the star-crossed lovers are, not unexpectedly, doomed by divisions of race and prejudice.

Mia Pinero plays Maria, Photo: Guthrie TheaterThe Sharks and the Jets will be exploding on the Guthrie stage, carrying with them the great acclaim garnered by the stage production, which ran for 700 performances, and the subsequent film, which won 10 Academy Awards. Bernstein’s beloved score includes such great classics as “Maria”, “Tonight”, “Somewhere” and “I Feel Pretty.” In addition to Bernstein’s score, the original production features the heralded lyrics of Stephen Sondheim, a book (script) by Arthur Laurents and is based on a conception of famed choreographer/director Jerome Robbins.

Mark Koeck plays Tony, Photo: Guthrie TheaterThe Guthrie’s production will be directed by its artistic director Joseph Haj, who said, “It has long been a dream of mine to direct “West Side Story” and I couldn’t be more excited to embark on this journey with a dream team of collaborators.”

Leading the cast as the two tragic lovers are Mark Koeck, as Tony, and Mia Pinero, playing the role of Maria. Both are making their Guthrie debuts; both have long listings of performance credits in this show and others and should be spectacular in these roles. There is a huge cast with many who are new to Guthrie but others who have been seen on the Guthrie stage often, such as Bill McCallum as Officer Krupke. Ana Isabelle, also making her debut here, plays the pivotal role of Anita, played in 1957 by the now legendary Chita Rivera. Chita’s role as the firebrand Anita in the original production made her a star.

In addition to a huge cast, many of whom are performing at Guthrie for the first time, the show features original choreography by Maija Garcia who noted, “It is 2018 now and the idea of what it means to be an American has changed as our relationship with race and immigration has evolved. So how do these kids move? The answers led us to a more grounded gritty style of movement.”

Joseph Haj, artistic director of Guthrie Theater and director of "West Side Story" Photo: Guthrie TheaterJoe Haj also shared: “When I think of “West Side Story” I think of immigration tensions and a community divided in a brutal and violent world. I also think of love, dreams and ambitions, and my own family’s journey to become ‘American'.” What could be more relevant today, accompanied by one of the greatest and soaring musical scores in Broadway history.

A final word: Get your tickets now. Although previews begin on June 16, these previews are entirely sold out. The first few weeks after opening are close to sold out as well – so get online fast at and order.

Shop Guthrie Store’s “West Side Story” collection.

Kay McGuire, director of Retail for the Guthrie Store, holds a logo purse mirror.Kay McGuire, director of retail for the Guthrie Store, has pulled together a wonderful collection of West Side Story paraphernalia to buy as keepsakes of the production. From logo’ed pocket mirrors to T-shirts, books and cuff bracelets, there’s something for every taste. The show’s logo of the juxtaposition of red and white roses on a background of a chain-link fence is particularly striking. From Sharks and Jets socks, to Sharks and Jets gummy packs, there is a terrific collection on hand. I particularly like the “I Feel Pretty” T-shirt and I am going back for one for myself.

T-shirt from the collection.

From the West Side Story collection in the Guthrie Store.

One of the many books in the special West Side Story collection.Wonderfully, the shop is filled with an assortment of books about the production, lyrics from Sondheim, a book about working with Leonard Bernstein, CDs and more.

Stop in here either before or after your performance or during intermission – there’s so much to choose from. 



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About Merle Minda

Journalist and free-lance writer Merle Minda writes about travel, business, people profiles and other subjects for a number of national and regional publications, including Delta SKY, Mpls/St. Paul Magazine, Twin Cities Business, Star Tribune, Twin Cities Statement, Minnesota Monthly, and now Mill City Times. She can be reached at or on the web.

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