Though the Puerto Rican community has harbored ambivalence toward the classic Broadway musical West Side Story, the Philadelphia Orchestra's long-planned performance of the piece has become a focal point for raising Hurricane Maria relief aid. Donations will be accepted in the Kimmel Center lobby during the four performances Oct. 12-15 under music director Yannick Nézet-Séguin.
"We invite everyone to join us for the poignancy of West Side Story, particularly during this Bernstein centenary, and to take part in our efforts to help those in need in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria's devastation," orchestra president and CEO Allison Vulgamore said in a statement. "These performances will turn the spotlight on our ongoing need for unity, as told in this historic and meaningful work, offered at a historic and meaningful moment in our country."
The endeavor is in partnership with the Kimmel Center and the cultural organization Taller Puertorriqueño, which also partners with the Kimmel for the La Noche series of free Latino music evenings (next scheduled for Nov. 20).
Casting for the West Side Story production was also announced, with Isabel Leonard, who is of Argentinian ancestry, in the leading role of Maria. Ryan Silverman plays Tony, her star-crossed lover. Other cast members include Timothy McDevitt as Riff, Benjamin Krumreig as Baby John, Nathaniel Stampley as Bernardo, and Isabel Santiago as Anita. Kevin Newbury will direct the semi-staged production, which will be costumed (by Paul Carey) but not choreographed.
Accusations of stereotyped characterizations have occasionally dogged the 1957 Broadway show. The 2009 Broadway revival aimed for greater authenticity by presenting some songs translated into Spanish. For the Kimmel performance, all lyrics will be in English.
Donations for hurricane relief can be made by cash or check made out to "Concilio/UNIDOS PA'PR" in the Kimmel Center lobby before the shows and at intermission. Donations can also be made via www.elconcilio.net/donate or by mail to Concilio, 141 E. Hunting Park Ave., Philadelphia 19124.
Performances Oct. 12-15 at the Kimmel Center.