July 26, 2017  

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Broadway’s Famed West Side Story Takes the Stage for USM Homecoming

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The Southern Opera and Musical Theatre Company at The University of Southern Mississippi will present Bernstein's timeless classic “West Side Story” as part of homecoming weekend celebrations.

Tickets are already in high demand for the three performances: Oct. 15 and 16 at 7:30 p.m. and Oct. 18 at 2 p.m. at the Mannoni Performing Arts Center Auditorium on the Hattiesburg campus.

Written by three theatrical luminaries: two-time Tony Award-winner Arthur Laurents (book) and multiple Tony and Grammy Award-winners Leonard Bernstein (music) and Stephen Sondheim (lyrics), “West Side Story” features instantly recognizable tunes, including  “Maria,” “America,” “Somewhere,” “Tonight,” “I Feel Pretty,” and more. The 35-member cast is joined by members of the Symphony Orchestra for a spectacular musical treat.

Southern Miss graduate student Ann Gabrielle Richardson plays the iconic role of Maria.

“West Side Story is a poignant classic for which audiences have developed very specific expectations; my challenge for Maria has been to cultivate her in such a way as to remain utterly respectful to the essence of the tale but to also infuse into her a freshness, a coyness, and a ‘zing’ of spirit that will reach out and draw you in,” said Richardson. “I want her to invite people to be captivated and vulnerable, to move their empathy out of the chairs and onto the stage with her as she and Tony and the gangs learn how to navigate their own desires.”

Inspired by Shakespeare’s play “Romeo and Juliet,” the musical is set in an upper West side neighborhood of New York City in the mid-1950’s. It explores the rivalry between the Jets and the Sharks, two teenage street gangs of different ethnic backgrounds. The dark theme, sophisticated music, extended dance scenes, and focus on social problems marked a turning point in American musical theater.

“The energy on and off stage is electric,” said undergraduate vocal major Josh Sewell. “I can't wait to get the show in front of a crowd for everyone to see.”

Remaining tickets are $15 - $25 for adults and $10 for students with ID. They may be purchased at the Southern Miss Ticket Office by calling 800.844.TICK or 601.266.5418.