“West Side Story” by T.C. Central’s Music Department

An enduring journey of love, music, dance, conflict, tragedy, and ultimately, FORGIVENESS and HOPE.

By Pamela McCormick / Stage Photo Credit to Liv Hale

 “West Side Story,” presented by the Traverse City Central High School Music Department, was a timeless retelling of the classic Romeo & Juliet with a powerful message for today. In a world full of intolerance, name calling, and misunderstanding, the audience was reminded of what happens when people are judged without prejudice.

The classic musical was directed by talented, local professionals. Erin Peck was the Artistic Director/Choreographer, Tamara Williams was the Musical Director/Conductor, Christina Seymour was the Associate Director and the Fight Coordinator was Jeremy Evans. The cast and crew consisted of talented Traverse City Central students, actors, singers, dancers, musicians, teachers, and parents. 

Two ensemble casts named the Gold and the Black based on the school colors of Traverse City Central performed. This reviewer watched the Black cast November 17, but was assured by others the Gold Cast was equally as gifted. The closing night performance, filled with some of the last musical moments of seniors was simply… AMAZING! 

The audience was mesmerized during the prologue with the classical sounds of Leonard Bernstein, played expertly by the student musicians. The music was intermixed with the sounds of spray paint cans, graffiti, metal fences, and boys playing basketball. The movement then took a twist when the Shark gang makes its first appearance with Bernado, played by Ralphie Ford.

The Sharks and Jets – Photo by Liv Hale

Next to make appearances were Tony, (played by Abe Arends), and Maria (Maggi Kernan), along with Riff (Sterling Goodwin) and Anita (Grace Critchfield). Teddy Huff played A-Rab, Gabe Banish played Action, and Liv Hale played a spirited version of Anybodys.  The natural blend of the voices of Tony (Abe) and Maria (Maggi) tugged at heart strings as the power of true love was illustrated.

The powerful lyrics of “Someday, Somewhere, Somehow” from Maria and Tony’s signature song by Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim were brought to life again. The characters and dancers lit up the stage dressed in white, with voices like angels allowing the audience to imagine the HOPE and POSSIBILITIES of a world without hate or intolerance.  The moment, the dancing and the singing was simply magical. (Not gonna lie. This writer cried).

Tony, (played by Abe Arends), and Maria, (played by Maggi Kernan) – Photo by Liv Hale

Fortunately laughter was also evident when Lauren Fleming, took the stage as the principal. Her tone and voice of the character, complete with a colorful costume, stole the show for a moment as the character tried to help the students get along with a circle dance.

Photo by Liv Hale

The storyline continued with the tragic ending (Hey. It’s Romeo & Juliet.), but the message was strong. The audience left with beautiful sounds resonating, accented by incredible dancing and choreography, and a deeply touching memory to consider in their minds and a soulful moment in their HEARTS.

Congratulations to the cast of crew of T.C. Central’s “West Side Story” for making a difference through the arts. The Director’s notes in the program encapsulated the final message:

Only forgiveness, understanding, and true love can bring us to the “Somewhere” we all imagine. We as a human race are striving for this…and we will get there. There is hope shown every day in the example of amazing people’s lives, and through those examples, yes … we will get there.

If you’d like to hear stories behind the scenes along with sounds from the original  Broadway performance, take a moment to listen to the “Morning Classical with Kate Botello” on Interlochen Public Radio. Here is the link:


Choose to love.

Choose kindness.

Forgive one another.

Change the world one smile, song or dance at a time.

Powerful messages to all.

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