A graffiti-covered concrete wall sits on stage. The words “Sharks” and “Jets” are etched on the wall.
The wall comes up. The Jets, a group of Polish-Americans, appear onstage first and begin to dance.
In the middle of the dance, a member of the Sharks, a group of immigrants from Puerto Rico, enters.
The Jets stop and rebuff the Sharks member.
A dance battle ensues, highlighting the rivalry between the two gangs on New York City’s west side.
The musical “West Side Story” made its first-ever appearance in the IU Auditorium Tuesday. Another performance will take place at 8 p.m. today.
The show is famous for its choreography. Another dance battle between the groups occurs later at a dance in a neighborhood gym.
During this dance, Tony, a member of the Jets, and Maria, a young Puerto Rican immigrant, meet and fall in love. They sneak away to Maria’s balcony and express their love with the well-known song “Tonight,” while Bernardo, leader of the Sharks, listening right inside the balcony door.
Freshman Kaitlyn Hockerman said Tuesday was the first time she had seen the musical live.
“This has always been one of my favorite movies,” she said, “so I just decided to take advantage of the opportunity when it presented itself.”
Hockerman said her favorite parts of “West Side Story” are the musical numbers and the adaptation of the classic story.
“I’m a huge musical fan, and hearing it live is going to be 100 times better than watching it on screen,” she said. “I really like the time period as well.”
“West Side Story” first opened on Broadway in 1957. The current national tour is based on the 2009 Broadway revival.
Joy and Dean Jones came to the auditorium with their children, Levi, 12, and Lydia, 9. Joy said seeing the show was Lydia’s birthday present.
Joy said though she and Lydia had previously seen “West Side Story” through a production at the Project School Bloomington, Dean and Levi had never seen it.
“We just enjoy theater,” Joy said. “It’s a really fun show. We thought it would be a good introduction for our kids to professional theater.”
Before the show, members of the cast gave a talk to audience members about life as part of “West Side Story.” Another talk took place after the show.
Margaret Radke, a Bloomington resident and alum of the Jacobs School of Music, said she has seen “West Side Story” many times, some of them through the opera department of Jacobs.
“I grew up with this,” she said. “This is Bernstein. This is classic.”
She said her favorite part of the show is the music.
“It’s stellar,” she said. “Modern music does not get any better than this.”