5 Questions with Eric Woodall, Director of North Carolina Theatre's Upcoming Production of "West Side Story"
Photo: Curtis Brown Photography
North Carolina Theatre, the region's premiere nonprofit professional theatre, will open its season with West Side Story, which will run October 15-20 at the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Raleigh.
The classic musical, set in modern times but based on Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, will feature the skilled direction of Eric Woodall, who was gracious enough to answer a few questions for us before opening night!
What makes West Side Story a perfect season opener?
Most theatres put a lot of thought into the show that will open and set the tone for each season, and that is obviously the case with NCT's choice of West Side Story.
Woodall explains that, "From a musical theatre standpoint, it is part of our fabric at NC Theatre to produce and explore some of the greatest musicals of all time. West Side Story is definitely one of those. It feels important to produce this show today, with its subject matter, because it is so immediate and pertinent to our times. Who knew that West Side Story, set in 1958, based on Romeo and Juliet, would be considered a zeitgeist in 2019!"
What have been your past experiences with this popular show?
Almost everyone has some experience with the much-loved West Side Story, and Woodall, being a theatre enthusiast, is no exception.
He tells us that, "West Side Story is a show I have seen numerous times and have always been moved by."
However, his experience extends beyond just that of a viewer. Woodall actually directed this particular version of the show two years ago at the Casa Mañana Theatre in Texas, which means he's sure to bring great experience but also new life into this exciting production.
He also tells us that, "We are thrilled to produce West Side Story during this time when revisiting the piece is so popular, as the new Ivo Van Hove Broadway production begins in December, and the new Steven Spielberg film just finished shooting. We feel lucky that we were granted the rights to do this show at NC Theatre. Not only were we granted the rights, we have had incredible encouragement. The writers and creators of West Side Story have donated their royalties to Equality NC!"
What is new and special about this particular production?
Woodall's previous answers make it obvious that quite a bit is "new" and "special" about North Carolina Theatre's upcoming production.
However, Woodall touches on the heart of the show and on what really makes it stand out when he explains that, "Love is color blind. Love knows no bounds. In the end, love will win. How can we find hope in hatred? What separates us and what unites us as people? How are we different, and how are we the same? These topics have fueled the design choices of the show. Matters of prejudice can bring up ideas that seem black and white and issues that seem gray at the same time. Accordingly, [this production] plays with the elements of black, white, and gray to support and challenge that thinking."
What is the biggest challenge you've faced in directing this show?
While Woodall was reluctant to label it a "challenge," he did tell us that, "Casting this show requires a great deal of focus and tenacity. The triple-threat skills required to sing, dance, and act in this piece are staggering."
He also let us know that his cast is more than capable of handling this "exciting task," a term he prefers to the negative connotations of the word "challenge." Woodall praises the cast, half of which is local and half of which comes from NYC and LA, as "incredible."
And, with a director who speaks so highly and fondly of them, we really can't wait to see what this star-studded cast, which includes the talented Zach Adkins and Addie Morales, has in store!
What are you most excited for viewers to see when they watch this production at NC Theatre?
While it would seem that viewers already have much to look forward to with this upcoming production, Woodall said he was especially "excited for our audiences to revisit the mastery of Jerome Robins, Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim."
He also added that, "At the same time, I hope that our fresh approach will allow the show to feel brand new and relevant."
If Woodall's answers and enlightened descriptions of the production and its strengths are anything to go on, then the show should be everything he wants it to be and more!
Viewers can experience it for themselves anytime during the production's six day run. Tickets are on sale now and going quickly!
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