West Side Story — the largest show A.D. Players at The George has ever produced — is filling the theater with music, dance and the hope of love this summer.
Artistic director Kevin Dean and executive director Jake Speck said that in planning the 2018-2019 season, they chose to close with West Side Story because it was a show that intimidated them. When asked why, Dean said, “It’s huge. It’s a challenge. We feel the only way for us to continue to grow and get better is to take on projects that scare us a little!”
And challenge them, it has. The cast of 27 is poised to sing, dance, and act on a stage covered in 14,500 pounds of steel that helps create a floor-to-ceiling world of 1950s Manhattan. With period costumes, countless pairs of dance shoes, and a full orchestra, this show is massive, to say the least.
Emily Tello Speck makes her Houston debut in the role of director/choreographer, but she is no stranger to the stage or to this show. A.D. Players is recreating the original Jerome Robbins choreography, a task that Tello Speck took on to transpose when she was choreographer for Nashville Theater, Studio Tenn, several years ago.
“West Side Story was to the audiences of the 1950s what Hamilton is to musical theatre today: simply groundbreaking and uniquely created by a quartet of musical theatre masters. Leonard Bernstein, Arthur Laurents, Stephen Sondheim, and Jerome Robbins collaborated to create what is widely believed to be a perfect musical, hence the pressure one may feel when recreating this masterpiece,” Tello Speck said.
When asked about the progress of the show thus far, Jake Speck said, “I saw an early rehearsal, before the set was finished, with bare-bones orchestra, and I was moved to tears. This show is going to be spectacular. If you have been a fan of A.D. Players or have never been to a show here before, this is a not-to-be-missed experience.”
The cast is comprised of a mix of local and national talent combining the best of Houston with artists from New York, Chicago and beyond.
“This is a very difficult show to cast, and we were thrilled to be able to cast the majority of it from local Houston talent! The rest of the cast is joining us from all over the country, and it is amazing to see all of these artists come together to challenge and sharpen each other. It has been an incredibly cohesive cast and we can’t wait for audiences to see it,” Tello Speck said.
A.D. Players at The George, founded in 1967 by Jeannette Clift George, produces compelling theatre from a Christian worldview that engages a diverse audience. The company is one of Houston’s largest professional theatre companies, impacting more than 9 million people over its lifetime. Annually, the company produces Mainstage Theatre performances, fields a Regional Touring Unit and maintains a year-round Performing Arts Academy. A.D. Players at The George became an Actors’ Equity Association (AEA) theater in 2017 and is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization.