Kent series to explore 'West Side Story'

Kent Memorial Library will present a lecture series based on the musical “West Side Story” next month.

The series will be held March 7, 14, 21 and 28 at 2:30 p.m. at Kent Town Hall at 41 Kent Green Boulevard.

Individuals who attend three of the four programs will have their name entered into a drawing to win two tickets to the Broadway production of “West Side Story” April 7 at 7 p.m. at Broadway Theatre, 1681 Broadway, New York City.

All four presentations will examine all aspects of “West Side Story.”

“After attending Leonard Bernstein’s 100th Birthday Celebration in 2018 at Tanglewood, with an audience of 18,000, it became abundantly clear that he was, and still is, beloved by scores of people,” said Lucy Pierpont, the library’s marketing and special events director.

Bernstein wrote the music for the musical.

“Plus, most of the first half of the evening were numbers from the 1957 original Broadway production of ‘West Side Story,’” Pierpont said.

“The Bernstein-Sondheim-Robbins collaboration created a spectacular Broadway classic which has been enjoyed by many generations in live theatre and film,” she said.

The series will coincide with the Broadway revival of “West Side Story” and the expected release of Steven Spielberg’s new movie, “West Side Story,” in December.

In addition, Netflix recently acquired the rights to the untitled Leonard Bernstein film which Bradley Cooper will star in and direct.

“With the success of last year’s ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ Lecture Series, we thought it would be fun to have an interesting exploration of another beloved classic, and ‘West Side Story’ surfaced,” Pierpont said.

“Not only is the subject matter endearing, but in my opinion, everything about it is pure genius,” she said.

Panelists Athenaide Dallett and Geoff Stewart, members of Kent School faculty, and Patrick Beer, a member of South Kent School faculty, will present “West Side Story and William Shakespeare” March 7.

The 1961 movie, directed by Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins, will be screened March 14.

The film is an adaptation of the 1957 Broadway musical of the same name, which in turn was inspired by William Shakespeare’s play “Romeo and Juliet.”

Music lecturer Jeffrey Engel, adjunct professor at Northwestern CT Community College, will present “Leonard Bernstein: ‘West Side Story’” March 21.

The series will conclude with “Book Talk: ‘Dancing Man’: A Broadway Choreographer’s Journey” with author Tom Santopietro, who will interview Kent resident and noted choreographer Bob Avian as they discuss their new book “Dancing Man: A Broadway Choreographer’s Journey.”

Avian is an award-winning Broadway choreographer known for his work on A Chorus Line, Miss Saigon, and Sunset Boulevard.

He began his career on Broadway as a dancer in such classic shows as “West Side Story,” “Funny Girl” and “Hello, Dolly!”

He also served as an original producer of “Dreamgirls” in 1981 and directed the Broadway and London revivals of “A Chorus Line” in 2006 and 2013.

This will be their first event to celebrate the newly published book.

For more information and RSVP to the programs, call the library at 860-927-3761.