MTU to present large production of ‘West Side Story’ at the Rozsa

Photo by Patricia Helsel The actors who play the Sharks in West Side Story pose downtown as their street gang​ characters.

Michigan Technological University’s Performing and Visual Arts Department gears up for another production.

“West Side Story”, a critically acclaimed musical, is loosely based off of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.

Associate professor of theatre and head of the electronic media performance program, said assistant professor of music and director of orchestral activities Joel Neves proposed they put on “West Side Story”.

Helsel smiled as she said,“I just gave him a big hug, because I’ve wanted to do it for quite some time.”

“This is one of the most difficult shows that I’ve directed due to the difficulty of the music and the different styles and genres.” said Helsel.

The story of the show is told through dance, music, and acting. Although the show is primarily stylistically classified as lyrical, it also incorporates a diverse variety of Latino culture, beatnik subculture, jazz, pop and opera. All of these are used to convey the meaningful messages of the script.

“The show has a lot of deep themes and powerful messages” Helsel said, “It’s not your typical musical comedy.”

Helsel said all of the dedication and enthusiasm everyone has put into this show has been crucial due to the size of the production.

“We have over 100 people in total. We have three stage managers, many musicians, and 32 actors, not to mention all of the people who are doing set and costumes.” said Helsel.

Voice coach Dr. Jared Anderson, choreographer Mary Mucil Jennings, costume designer Mary Cyr, technical director Kent Cyr and set designer Dr. Craig Friedrich are just some of the diligent people working to make this show the best it can be.

“Every person in the show brings something unique, and brings something that can’t necessarily be portrayed in the script and I take a tone of hope out of all the potential negativity and the cultures, and especially with the political atmosphere right now, I think this show is particularly meaningful.” said Helsel.

West Side Story will be performed at 7:30 p.m. from April 13-15 at the Rozsa Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets are $19 for adults, $6 for youth, and free for students with their ETF. Tickets are available now at