ISHPEMING - The Peninsula Arts Appreciation Council is taking its yearly big summer show at the Vista Theater in Negaunee and making it even bigger, with a production of "West Side Story" opening tonight.
"We specialize on doing huge, big musical productions," said Alfred Keefer, executive director of PAAC and director of "West Side Story."
"We've got this wonderful facility that has the acoustic capability of making live voices just sound beautiful and rich,"?Keefer said. "We have a veteran staff that's great with lights and sets and costumes, and this show in particular, we have 30-some people in there and they are all good.
David Gilbert, who plays the part of Riff, performs the song “Cool” during a West Side Story dress rehearsal at the Vista Theater in Negaunee Wednesday evening. (Journal photo by Zach Jay)
Keefer said the play has a good ensemble cast, and some of the smaller-role characters are people who have starred in productions in the community or elsewhere.
"So when you add that overall ensemble of great cast and crew you come up with a really spectacular production," he said.
Keefer said the first time he saw the play was at the Vista Theater in 1982.
"It was a big influence on me, because I didn't see theater done like that," he said. "And 'West Side Story' is not done too often because it's really difficult in music and difficult in dance and set and it's just a style that's not easy to do. So it's been over 30 years since I've seen it here and it's exciting to bring it back."
The play is a classic musical, Keefer said, based on Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet."
"It's been one of the top musicals of all time," he said. "... It's just one of those musicals that has such enduring music that everybody remembers and it just continues, because all the songs are really good and strong, and then they added the dancing and the great love story. It makes it one of the most fantastic musicals you can do."
The show opens at 7:30 tonight, with additional shows at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and Aug. 21, 22, 23 and 24. Tickets are $12 for adults and $8 for students high school age or younger. They are available at the Vista Theater Thrift Shop in Negaunee, Johnson's Drugs in Ishpeming, Snowbound Books in Marquette and at the door.
Zach Jay can be reached at 906-486-4401.