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Curtain Rises: “West Side Story” opens Northampton Community College Summer Theatre

Northampton Community College Summer Theatre kicks off its 2024 season with the beloved musical “West Side Story,” June 5 -16, Lipkin Theater, NCC, Bethlehem Township.

The summer theater program continues after the loss of its producing artistic director and founder Bill Mutimer, who died March 6.

Brett Oliveira, Mutimer’s friend who does stage design for the summer program, says Mutimer had already cast the lead roles when he died and all of his casting choices are being honored. Additional roles were cast through local auditions.

“Bill worked too hard and too long and he would want the summer program to go on,” Oliveira says. “He built it to last, and we want to do a season he would be proud of.”

“West Side Story” is a musical conceived by Jerome Robbins, with music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and a book by Arthur Laurents.

Inspired by Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” the musical transports the story to modern-day New York City as idealistic young lovers Tony (Anthony Ghali) and Maria (Maria Alvarez-Pallete) find themselves caught between warring street gangs, the American Jets and the Puerto Rican Sharks. Their struggle to survive in a world of hate, violence and prejudice provides for one of the most innovative, heart-wrenching and relevant musical dramas of our time.

The cast features Calum Sullivan as Tony’s best fried Riff and Yul Carrion as Maria’s brother Bernardo.

The Jets are played by Max Wetherhold, Harrison Fox, Ryan Apgar, John Greisen, Connor Sternberg and Dylan Penyak.

The Sharks are played by Mateo Villarreal, Joao Alexandre, Julio Hernandez, Adrian Colon-Burgos, Zayne Xavier Thomie, Dyran Robles and Sergio Salinas.

The cast includes Jenna Williamson, Deborah Katz, Isabelle Awald, Lydia Walker, Whitney Madill, Camilla Backman, Ri-Ahn Kim, Isabella Ramirez, Abby Arza, Isabella Ambroise, Julianna Braga Domiciano, Anjelica Juantia Soto, Brianna Gutierrez, Jim Long, Michael Sheridan, Cade Kocher and Kevin Gaughenbaugh.

Darah Donaher directs the NCC production. Choreography is by Tina Williams. Dance captain is Jenna Williamson.

The Northampton Community College Summer Theatre season includes “Fiddler on the Roof,” June 26 - July 7; “Dr. Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat,” June 19 - July 27, and “Mamma Mia!,” July 17 - 28.

“West Side Story,” 7:30 p.m. June 5, 6, 7, 8, 12, 13, 14, 15; 2 p.m. June 9, 16; Northampton Community College Summer Theatre, Lipkin Theater, Northampton Community College, 3835 Green Pond Road, Bethlehem Township. 484-484-3412, https://www.northampton.edu

World premiere at Ice House:

Crowded Kitchen Players will present the world premiere of “Twilight in the Park,” June 7 - 16, upstairs theater, Charles A. Brown Ice House, Bethlehem.

“Twilight in the Park” is written by Bethlehem playwright and actor Paul Kodiak.

Kodiak was an invited playwright member at the Actor’s Studio, New York City, for several years in the 1990s where he had staged readings of two full-length plays.

His plays have been presented at other New York venues, including Hunter College, Roy Arias Stages at the Times Square Arts Center, The People’s Center Theatre at the American Museum of Natural History, Polaris North Theatre and The Statue of Liberty.

Locally, Kodiak has had plays produced at Shawnee Playhouse, The Phoenix Performing Arts Center and Selkie Theatre at Illick’s Mill, Bethlehem.

Kodiak’s play, “My Brother’s Keeper,” was selected as a finalist in the O’Neill Theater Center’s National Playwrights Conference in 1984. His play “The Messenger” is the winner of two NEPTA awards and the 2011 Shawnee Original Playwrights Series winner.

“Twilight in the Park” follows strong-willed WWII Army combat veteran Oscar (John Corl), who is struggling with PTSD and rapid-onset dementia.

As wartime memories overshadow his sense of reality, Oscar increasingly believes that he is still an active-duty soldier in a war that never ends. Oscar’s wife, Lucy (Pamela Wallace), is near breaking point as she fights to keep what’s left of him from slipping into delusion.

Complicating things is Lucy’s best friend, Agnes (Marcy Hake Repp), a lonely woman desperate for love, who has grown fond of Oscar.

The play is directed by Crowded Kitchen Players’ member Bruce Brown and stage managed by Trish Cipoletti. Crowded Kitchen co-founder Ara Barlieb is producer and technical director.

Staff and volunteers from Lehigh County Aging and Adult Services will be in the lobby to speak those interested in learning more about the dementia and its effects on seniors and their families and friends.

“Twilight in the Park,” 7:30 p.m. June 7, 8, 14, 15, 21, 22; 2 p.m. June 9, 16, 23. Crowded Kitchen Players, Charles A. Brown Ice House, 56 River St., Bethlehem. 610-704-6974, https://www.ckplayers.com/

“Curtain Rises” is a column about the theater, stage shows, the actors in them and the directors and artists who make them happen. To request coverage, email: Paul Willistein, Focus editor, pwillistein@tnonline.com.

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO Calum Sullivan (Riff), left, leads the Jets at a dance rehearsal for Northampton Community College Summer Theatre's “West Side Story.”
CONTRIBUTED PHOTO From Left: John Corl (Oscar), Pamela Wallace (Lucy), “Twilight in the Park,” Crowded Kitchen Players.