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WEST SIDE STORY AT 50 October 9, 2011
at St. Luke’s Theater, NYC

by Marcina Zaccaria

DO40 West Side Story Event

DO40 President John Sefakis at the Q & A section of the WSS Event,
with Host Harvey Evans, Bert Michaels and David Bean
(also onstage shooting footage for us to donate the Lincoln Center Library, Manny Santiago

The Audience Responds!

“I loved every minute of it.  I must confess I melt every time I see Harvey Evans.”

“I can't stop thinking about the evening….so glad that you video all of these events.  This information is so precious to preserve.  Imagine how happy the viewers are who live too far away to get to the events!  What a learning tool for the young hopefuls.”

“What a fabulous day yesterday!  It was absolutely perfect!  That film meant a lot to me - like Joe Mantegna, I saw it 11 times! And of course, like everyone else, I was madly in love with George Chakiris - he was plastered all over my teenage walls.  The 3 "live" guys onstage were amazing, and the continuation afterwards at Joe Allen's, with lots of old friends, was the perfect ending.  You have done an amazing job - I salute you!  It just gets better and better.”

“Now THAT was fabulous!” 

DO40 West Side Story Event On Sunday, October 10, 2011, D040 members and NYC theater and dance fans gathered at St. Luke’s Theater in NYC to celebrate West Side Story at 50 – The movie, The Dancers, the Documentary.  There was a spirited panel and Q & A with the audience about the play, movie and documentary by Peter Fitzgerald, with additional footage by Robert Banas and Harvey Evans.  The unreleased documentary features dancers remembering the filming of West Side Story, and the lives that they’ve led after the film was made.  The dancers were happy to discuss the camaraderie they’ve had throughout the years (left, Bert Michaels, Harvey Evans and David Bean).

Host Harvey Evans and original Jets Bret Michaels and David Bean were there to share their insight on the making of the movie.  Unfortunately Russ Tamblyn had scheduling conflicts and Al Verso had a last minute emergency and could not attend.  We DID want one Shark in attendance!  Harvey has been instrumental in helping to preserve the History, Legacy, and Lives of the dance community – and the community of West Side Story dancers.  He shared what it was like to work with Mr. Robbins, and remembered the ‘Yes Sir’ mentality that many dancers had when working with him.  In pushing the dancers to their limit, Robbins often made the dancers better, and perhaps there was something magnificent on screen because of that.  

Harvey said the dancers felt like they were walking on eggshells when they were around Robbins, but so many also felt blessed that Jerry had chosen them to do the show.  They always tried to find a way to say' thank you' to him for giving them this special opportunity -- and sometimes they told him off -- and he liked it!  Harvey was asked by an audience member if he ever thought about the fact that he was part of the “Golden Age of Theater and Dance.”  He responded with a Gwen Verdon quote, “Well, if I had known THEN that it was, I would have!”

DOr0 West Side Story Event

In the audience with DO40 Prez John Sefakis: DO40 Legacy Award Winner Gemze de Lappe,
Director/Choreographer and Advisory Board Member Larry Fuller and Betty Jacob

Other great stories were shared about the different vantage points of seeing the work.  The documentary catches the dancers warming up and exercising on location and shows vividly that many scenes were shot on the land where Lincoln Center was later built.  The original film, of course, featured music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim.  The movie starred Natalie Wood, Richard Beymer and Rita Moreno and won 10 Academy Awards, including Best Picture.  The 50th Annual Version of West Side Story is being re-released on November 15th on Blu-ray DVD.  The re-release boasts hundreds of hours of restoration, new 7.1 digital audio, and a collection of bonus features.

Many thanks to everyone who came to the event, and of course, many thanks to Harvey Evans, David Bean, and Bert Michaels for sharing their perspective and their unique point of view.

DO40 West Side Story Event

The fabulous Marge Champion, DO40 Advisory Board Member and Legacy Award Winner,
with West Side Story cast member David Bean

Photo By Jeff Eason, Wilsonmodels, Inc