You can forgive Richard Lewis for indulging in hyperbole—mainly because when he declares, “‘West Side Story’ is one of the best pieces of musical theater of all time, period,” he’s absolutely right.
Lewis, 62, the charismatic president and chief executive officer of California Musical Theatre, is enthusing about CMT’s presentation of the award-laden, pedigree-heavy reworking of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” set for nine Music Circus performances Aug. 4–9. CMT last presented the show here just three years ago—not in the round, as it will be in August, but as part of CMT’s Broadway Sacramento series under the proscenium arch of Sacramento Community Center Theater. (By the way, shouldn’t everyone agree on whether to go with “theater” or “theatre”?)
“West Side Story”—whose film adaptation, co-directed by Robert Wise and the show’s original choreographer and director, Jerome Robbins, won 10 Oscars in 1961—boasts one of the most distinguished groups of collaborators in Broadway history. The show’s book (script) is by Arthur Laurents, the music by Leonard Bernstein and the lyrics by a then-relatively-new talent named Stephen Sondheim. The show transports feuding Verona families during the Renaissance to the rough streets of New York in the mid-20th century.
As for CMT itself, Lewis says the organization—which was hit hard in 2008 by both the spike in gasoline prices, causing many playgoers to think twice about driving downtown, and the subsequent recession—“is in fiscal rebuilding mode. Our donor base has been consistent and generous, and we’re even building reserves.” For what? “Oh, the next recession,” he says, laughing.
Tickets and details: californiamusicaltheatre.com