Jets, Sharks set to rumble on stage

Music & More takes to the stage with ‘West Side Story’
By: Loryll Nicolaisen, Journal features editor
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The Jets and the Sharks just can’t seem to get along. Music & More Arts Academy & Theatre presents its take on “West Side Story,” a musical tale of warring street gangs and doomed love. Eight performances are scheduled between today and Feb. 12. This modern-day take on “Romeo and Juliet” involves plenty of dancing and singing, and should prove entertaining for just about everyone from middle school on up, said director Jonathan Coder. “It’s young people emerging, trying to become adults but they’re still trapped in a mindset of a young mind,” he said. “West Side Story” tells the tale of two young lovers, Maria and Tony, who find themselves caught between two rival gangs, the Jets and the Sharks. “Tony’s trying to be noble,” Coder explained. “His girlfriend Maria is talking him into stopping a gang fight. He becomes this sacrifice. It’s potent and it can reach people on a lot of levels.” Coder said the music is another factor that makes “West Side Story” such a great show. Songs like “Maria” and “Tonight” have staying power. “It still seems very modern to me and it’s timeless,” he said. “It doesn’t pigeon hole an era. It’s not what you expect.” Cast and crew have been hard at work for the past four months in preparation of tonight’s opening performance. Working on a dramatic piece such as “West Side Story” has been a good learning experience for the cast, which ages in range from 15 to 23. “A lot of shows are comedy, so it gives the actors a chance to stretch their abilities,” Coder said. The dance aspect of the show has required a lot of determination from the cast, said choreographer Julia Schoenwanbt. “The big challenge was the fact that the majority of the students didn’t have dance experience, and the choreography I was throwing at them was quite different, but they’ve been able to do an amazing job,” she said. “The music is hard to follow. It doesn’t have your traditional eight counts. The music is fun and interesting and it gives you a lot of leeway to be creative. I think these kids do an amazing job.” New to the Music & More stage are Keshava Betts and Amber Solomon, who play Tony and Maria. Betts, 16, feels a connection to Tony. “He’s really looking for something better in life,” said the Nevada City teen. “The plot is classic; it’s really the struggle to find something better in life. He dies so the gangs will stop fighting and live together.” Betts’ favorite song from the show is “Maria.” Solomon, who’s studying biology at Sierra College, said she loves her character’s quiet, innocent ways. “She’s naïve, and she’s playful too,” said the 22-year-old Auburn resident. Solomon said “West Side Story” audiences should expect to be entertained. “We’ve all worked really hard on this,” she said. “It’s going to be a great show.” Reach the Journal’s Loryll Nicolaisen at __________ “West Side Story” When: 7:30 p.m. Jan. 28-29, Feb. 4-5, Feb. 11-12; 3 p.m. Jan. 30 and Feb. 6 Where: Music & More DeWitt Theatre, 11596 D Ave., Auburn Cost: $14 general, $12 seniors 65 and over and children under 13 Info:, (530) 305-0938