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Welcome to the wild, wild ‘West’

June 15, 2011
tags: ,

Published in Metro

A lot has changed in the world since 1957, when “West Side Story” premiered. Arthur Laurents, writer of the original show, and also director of the 2009 revival, knew it.

“Arthur wanted to make our production more gritty, more true to life,” explains Kyle Robinson, a performer in the late writer-director’s revival of this classic.

The story is the same: Tony and Maria are still ill-fated lovers, tied to rival street gangs, the Jets and the Sharks. But Laurents cut the links to the ’50s, such as period costumes and jargon, and made it timeless. He also infused Spanish into lyrics and dialogue spoken by the Puerto Rican Sharks.

“The Spanish helps solidify the Sharks’ identity. They’re not just ‘the other gang’ in the story anymore. They have their own style and language,” Robinson says.

Robinson, a Massachusetts native, plays Diesel, the toughest of the Jets.

“I’m the go-to guy for brawling and rumbles and such,” he says.

Robinson and the other gang performers learned complex fight choreography for those rumbles.

“We’re throwing punches and all of that. Nothing lands — well not purposefully — but to the audience it looks like we’re beating the crap out of each other,” says Robinson, who did accidentally catch a hand to the face recently. That’s him in the blue shirt in the front row of the photo, with the scratch underneath his eye. Robinson says his fat lip might mean less time prepping for the show.

“Our makeup is mostly superficial wounds, bruises and cuts,” he says.

Just beat it

Though he plays the tough guy in “West Side Story,” Robinson isn’t into real-life fistfights. The Julliard alum would rather dance it out.

“I’d do better in a Michael Jackson-type dance battle,” he says.

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