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Amazing Grace Conservatory Presents “Our Westside Story”
By Brian W. Carter, Contributing Writer
Published April 25, 2019

Actress, director, producer and co-founder of AGC, Wendy Raquel Robinson

The Amazing Grace Conservatory (AGC) will present their adaptation of an American musical classic entitled, “Our Westside Story” on Saturday, May 18 at 7:30 pm and Sunday, May 19, 2019 at 6:00 p.m. at the Little Theatre located at Los Angeles Southwest College at 1600 W. Imperial Hwy, Los Angeles, CA 90047. Award-winning actress, director, producer and co-founder of AGC, Wendy Raquel Robinson spoke with the Sentinel about the production and its relevance today.

“What makes it ‘Our Westside Story’ is that we are adding that soulful element, using the muse of the Five Heartbeats as an impulse for the Jets and keeping the integrity of the Sharks in fighting for classism and a place in America—where we are right now, all of the parallels and the symbolism, even with the gang violence, it’s still a very relevant situation,” said Robinson.

AGC previously did two productions of “Westside Story” in 1999 and 2010. This stage play is being directed by original cast members from the 1999 and 2010 stage productions along with Robinson, who has choregraphed the scene for “America.”

“We’re all directing,” said Robinson. “We’re keeping in its original intent, set in the 1950s.”

Robinson continued, “We’re putting our spin on it and from those perspectives of cast members, who were in the show, that were also students of Amazing Grace and now professional working alumni, coming back to teach and direct, is a full 360.”

Inspired by Romeo & Juliet, “Our Westside Story” is a musical which tales a love story set to the background of 1950s Harlem. On the harsh streets of the upper west side, two gangs battle for control of one turf, however, the situation becomes complicated when a gang member falls in love with a rival’s sister.

Robinson has added a twist with AGC’s production.

“We’ve added a whole new song,” said Robinson. “The director, his name is Alfred Jackson … felt like there was no redeeming qualities for the Sharks, they had no voice afterwards, it was all about the Jets and how their going to come back after the Sharks.

“So, there’s an original song in honor of Bernardo, so we added an original song and an original scene that is about [Bernardo], ‘Mi Hermano.’

“And it’s all in Spanish and we have a primarily African American cast, so we’re taking on that nuance. Being that Los Angeles is a melting pot, I think that is quite interesting as well. I’m really proud of that, so we did take the liberty in adding that.”

“Our Westside Story” tweaks the classic American musical to profile African-American culture with a blend of Puerto Rican and Afro-Cuban cultures, to tackle societal issues that both communities continue to face today such as assimilation, gang culture, and more importantly racial profiling “in the midst of everything that’s happening with South [Los Angeles], Nipsey and all of that,” added Robinson.

Alfred Jackson (“Book of Mormon,” “Solid Gold Motown”, “Michael Jackson’s Man in the Mirror”, “Recorded in Hollywood,” “Rent”, “Glee” and Gerald Evans (“Medea”, “The Typist,” “Ray & Sons,” “Sister Act 2,” “The Grinch,” “Westside Story,” “In the Blood”), are making their directorial debuts for this AGC production. Robinson states the torch is being passed to Jackson and Evans, who have both come full circle in their journeys from student to staff. They were both in previous AGC productions of “Westside Story” Jackson (1999) and Evans (2010). Today, they have successful careers in the entertainment industry and have returned to their training ground to give back to the community.

“We have two different shows within on weekend of theater,” said Robinson. “My younger ones, my eight-to-12-year-olds are doing ‘Our Side of the Story’ which takes a whole other look on ‘Westside,’ keeping some of the music but also adding a present-day feel to it.

“So, we’re keeping ‘Westside Story’ and its original content for my 12-18-year-olds and that’s ‘Our Westside Story’ and for my little ones, we’re doing a special matinee more intended for our younger audience where it’s about bullying and a dance battle.”

“Our Westside Story” takes place at the Little Theater at Los Angeles Southwest College Saturday, May 18 at 7:30 pm and Sunday, May 19, 2019 at 6:00 p.m. with a special presentation of the Jr. showcase, ‘Our Side of the Story’ on Sunday, May 19 2019 at 3:00 p.m.

Don’t miss Amazing Grace Conservatory’s “Our Westside Story”, a musical journey filled with incredible music, captivating dance performances, and a sizzling cast of LA’s most talented youth ages 8-18 years.

Tickets are on sale now for $40 for the VIP Experience and $25 in advance and $20 for groups of 20 or more. For more information, please call (323) 732-4283 or visit the website, amazinggraceconservatory.org.

Categories: Crenshaw & Around | Entertainment | Theater
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