Lyric Opera’s ‘West Side Story’ brings a beloved classic to life

CHICAGO — The classic musical "West Side Story," a tragic tale of two star-crossed lovers caught in the middle of a gang war, returns to the stage at Lyric Opera of Chicago this month.

Played by Manuel Stark Santos, Bernardo is the head of the Sharks and the brother of Maria, who has fallen in love with the leader of the rival Jets. Bernardo came from Puerto Rico and is fiercely fighting for his family's independence, and against the rival Jets.

Even though these fights are choreographed and done with fake weapons, Santos says they're not risk-free.

"We've accidentally sliced each other," Santos said.

Bernardo's girlfriend and Maria's best friend, Anita, is played by Amandra Castro, who says she sees her own experience as a Puerto Rican and today's current events reflected in the play.

"I think it all boils down to the things we're talking about in politics today," Castro said. "How are we treating kids in school? How are we dealing with racism? How are we dealing with prejudice? How are we dealing with fear?"

Featuring iconic songs by Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheime like "Tonight," "America," and "I feel pretty," the Lyric's original production is directed and choreographed by Jerome Robbins.

For those who haven't seen "West Side Story" since it was on the big screen 1961, or have never seen it at all, the American classic will be at Lyric Opera of Chicago through June 2.

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