Friday, July 22, 2005

West Side Story -- NOT

Someone on a theater list was asking for crazy theater anecdotes... and I was happy to share mine!

In the early 1980s (80-81?) our school (Occidental College) did West Side Story. The casting was very controversial, in that they hired a "real actor" (probably a SAG/AFTRA guy) to play Tony because apparently they didn't have a good enough Tony in our own college ranks. (Hey, my question is -- WHY DO WEST SIDE STORY THEN?!) But I digress. The Maria chosen was also miscast, in my humble opinion... a bit on the Mamacita side, so much so they had to change a line about her weight... (I believe she was cast because she was the most "dependable" actress... what, are they nuts?!) Again, sorry, I digress.

So it must have been second or third night of a six-night college run... and the very BLOND Tony (isn't he supposed to be mistaken for a Puerto Rican?!) finishes singing "Something's Coming" and gets whisked away, hanging onto a moving set piece that looked like chain link fence. The beginning of the dance n the gym starts, the ballerina starts a twirling away center stage... and suddenly the music STOPS.

The director comes front and center and asks if there's a doctor in the house... someone runs up and we're all kept in the dark as the actors file off stage. A few minutes later, the director comes back -- apparently Tony got taken away on the set piece as planned, but HIS SHOULDER STAYED ON STAGE. Completely pulled it out of its socket, poor guy. And of course there were no understudies.

So they cancelled the next two performances, and told us our tickets were good for the closing night. Well, I'm for sure gonna see this -- and hmmm, I sure hope the guy's feeling better. But then out comes the director again.

Apparently not only is Tony in a shoulder cast and a sling... but Maria has completely lost her singing voice. Gone. Nada. She can speak, but cannot sing. So they decided to have the girl playing #3 Puerto Rican girl (after Anita) who SHOULD have been cast in the first place (she was more of a singer than an actress, but she could wallop a punch and has since been in many productions, including Phantom...) -- on the side, stage left, ON A PODIUM singing all of Maria's songs, while Maria the Mamacita ended up MIMING to SAG/AFTRA Tony in a sling.

Oh dear -- what a farce! I swear they cursed themselves the second they decided to cast off campus! In any case, West Side Story will never be the same again... and I LOVE going to live theater!