Downey High staging “West Side Story”

03/19/2014 12:00 AM

03/18/2014 1:30 PM

The Downey High School performing arts program, now in its 63rd year, is about to stage a musical that dates back nearly as far: the 1957 musical “West Side Story.”

With music by Leonard Bernstein, book by Arthur Laurents and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, the Broadway classic is the winner of 10 Tony Awards. Its 1961 film adaptation, starring Natalie Wood, Richard Beymer and Rita Moreno, won 10 Academy Awards.

Downey is “staging a full pit orchestra, traditional Broadway production this year,” theater arts teacher Mike Johnson said in a news release. “Dancers, actors and musicians of diverse ethnic backgrounds make up the cast of this show that proved it was ‘cool’ for men to dance.”

Inspired by William Shakespeare’s tragedy “Romeo and Juliet,” “West Side Story” is set in New York’s Upper West Side. Young lovers Tony and Maria struggle to rise above the hatred and intolerance that surround them, including the rivalry between teenage street gangs the Jets and the Sharks.

The score is among the most famous in Broadway history and includes “Something’s Coming,” “Tonight,” “America,” “I Feel Pretty” and “Somewhere.”

Downey’s performances are set for Friday and March 28-29 at 7:30 p.m., and March 30 at 2 p.m. in the school auditorium, 1000 Coffee Road.

Tickets are $10 general admission, $7 for seniors and students. They are available at the school’s student body office; reserved seats are available at To learn more, email Johnson at

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