The world’s most tragic love story finds a new life in modern-day Tangier, inspired by the classic American musical, West Side Story.
Cultural Complex Sidi Mohammed ben Youssef, Fez medina.
Saturday 8th December 2012. 8.15 pm
Some stories transcend space and time. From Romeo and Juliet to West Side Story, classic stories of love, loss and reconciliation make up part of the human narrative.
In Tangier, theater director and Fulbright scholar George Bajalia is adapting this narrative, Moroccan style. His original musical “F7ali F7alek” (Like me, like you) inspired by West Side Story brings the Sharks and Jets, and classics like Bernstein’s “Somewhere” from the West Side to contemporary Tangier. Here, Tony (who is “really called Kerim”) and Maria get tangled in a fight for neighborhood dominance between their families, one from Tangier and the other from the provinces.
Produced by Tony Award nominated producer Tom Casserly, the show sponsored by the AmericanLanguageCenter through a grant from the US Embassy in Rabat to the American Cultural Association proved a rare cultural experience in Morocco. Though the classic dance-off and story structure are true to West Side Story, the musical offered young Moroccan actors, professional and amateur, a chance to communicate about their culture and the issues most relevant to their lives. To reach local audiences, Bajalia worked with local Tangier translator Zakaria Alilech to script the show in Moroccan dialect, a departure from the norm in a country where most theater is performed in classical Arabic or French. Casserly admits the challenges of working across cultures and language barriers, but emphasizes the learning experience had by everyone involved in the show.
A mash-up of timeless songs from West Side Story, contemporary pop, and classical Andalousian accompaniment performed live by the local ensemble Abnae wa Binat Zaryab; the soundtrack of F7ali F7alek echoed the cultural dialogue that Bajalia and his sponsors at the embassy hoped to foster.
After four standing-room only nights in Tangier, F7ali F7alek begins its tour of Morocco with tentative dates through December in Rabat, Fez, and Oujda. Returning to the United States, Bajalia will bring his talent back to Chicago to continue directing and to help Chicago students collaborate on theater pieces with students from Egypt and Morocco.
Written by Joe Lukawski