Greg Vinkler Heading to Broadway in Revival of West Side Story

FISH CREEK, WI – Peninsula Players Theatre, America’s oldest professional resident summer theater, celebrated the news that its Artistic Director, Greg Vinkler has been cast in the forthcoming Broadway revival of West Side Story, which first opened on Broadway in 1957. Arthur Laurents, who recently directed Patti LaPone in the revival of Gypsy,will direct the musical for which he wrote the book.

Vinkler, who plays the legendary Sherlock Holmes at Peninsula Players this fall, will begin rehearsals for West Side Story at the close of the Players 2008 season. Vinkler has been cast as Doc, owner of Docs Drug Store, who gives former gang member Tony a job and tries to stop the escalating gang violence between the Sharks and Jets.

In Vinklers 20 years with the Players he has played Sir Thomas More in A Man for All Seasons and Salieri in Amadeus. He also portrayed characters in Players mysteries The Woman in Black and The Mousetrap as well as several other plays including The Cherry Orchard, Art, Little Shop of Horrors, Red Herring, The Last Night of Ballyhoo and many, many more – 40 roles altogether.

The Players family is very excited for Greg and the opportunity this role has for him, said Ted Laitner, president of the Players board of directors. Door County audiences have been blessed to see Greg on stage for many years, and we are excited to share his talent with both the stages of Washington D.C. and New York. Greg will continue to serve the Players as its artistic director and is in the process of selecting the 2009 line-up, artistic staff and cast.

For his work at the Players, Vinkler was honored with the inaugural Door County Artist of the Year Award. Vinkler has appeared at Chicago Shakespeare in 32 productions, most recently The Comedy of Errors and Othello and at other Chicago theaters such as Goodman, Steppenwolf, Writer’s, Northlight, Marriott Lincolnshire and Victory Gardens.

In Chicago, Vinkler received three Joseph Jefferson “Jeff” awards, 12 Jeff nominations, two Artisan awards and an After Dark award. He performed at the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon, England, playing Falstaff in the two parts of Henry IV for Chicago Shakespeare Theater.

In 2007, Laurents told a reporter of The New York Post, Ive come up with a way of doing it (West Side Story) that will make it absolutely contemporary without changing a word or a note. Reportedly the West Side Story revival will have an onstage cast of 37 and 30 musicians in the orchestra pit and will selectively weave Spanish throughout the book and in songs.

In a recent statement Laurents, a Tony nominee for his direction of Gypsy said, This show will be radically different from any other production of West Side Story ever done. The musical theater and cultural conventions of 1957 made it next to impossible for the character to have authenticity. Every member of both gangs was always a potential killer even then. Now they actually will be. Only Tony and Maria try to live in a different world.

Laurents is also the librettist for Hallelujah, Baby!, Anyone Can Whistle and Gypsy. He began writing for the theater more than 50 years ago with the play Home of the Brave. Among his other works are The Time of the Cuckoo, Jolson Sings Again and 2 Lives. Laurents received a Best Director Tony Award for the original production of La Cage aux Folles.

Laurents also directed the Tyne Daly revival of Gypsy as well as a young Barbra Streisand in I Can Get it for You Wholesale and Angela Lansbury in Anyone Can Whistle. In 1993, he oversaw the CBS adaptation of Gypsy for Bette Midler.

West Side Story will first play an engagement at the National Theatre in Washington, D.C., where it made its world premiere in 1957, running Dec. 16-Jan. 17, 2009. Broadway previews will begin Feb. 23 at the Palace Theatre, opening in March. The original Jerome Robbins choreography will be restaged by Joey McKneely, the choreographer of The Boy from Oz and The Life.

With an original score by Bernstein and lyrics written by Stephen Sondheim, West Side Story has long been a favorite for musical theater lovers the world over with numbers like, Maria, America, Somewhere and I Feel Pretty.

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