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Arts beat: 'West Side Story,' Hotel Henry's hallways and 1812 redux

Like many of the best musicals, "West Side Story" is so layered and multifaceted that it can be produced every year without ever being the same show twice. Big theater productions can fill the stage with a city full of imposing sets; smaller space can focus on the people who inhabit them. Large ensembles can mob the stage with complex interwoven dance routines; smaller shows can dazzle with individual star turns.

For its season opening version of "West Side Story," MusicalFare keeps its focus on the star-crossed lovers at the heart of the story, with the hope, it says, of "enabling audiences to experience the show as if seeing it for the very first time." The show opens at 7 p.m. Sept. 4 and continues through Oct. 6.

The enduring appeal of the musical can be credited to the both its powerful themes and to its creators: music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by Arthur Laurents, all inspired by a little story written in the late 16th century by another pretty well-known theatrical figure, William Shakespeare. Jerome Robbins came up with the idea of adapting "Romeo and Juliet" to modern times (which was the 1950s) and the rest is musical history.

Although the space is cozy, MusicalFare is not cutting corners on the music or the cast – at least 20 talented performers will bring the troubled world of Tony and Maria, and of the Sharks and Jets, to life. You can meet them for a talk-back after each Wednesday performance (except opening night) to ask questions and hear about how the show came together.

Performances are 7 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursday, 7:30 p.m. Fridays (except Curtain Up! night on Sept. 20, which is 8 p.m.), 3:30 and 7:30 p.m. Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays. The theater is on the Daemen College campus (4380 Main St., Amherst), with plenty of free parking. Tickets are $47. Call 839-8540 or visit musicalfare.com.

The way-back camp at Old Fort Niagara

The War of 1812 gets less attention in the history books than more expansive and divisive wars in the United States' past, but had it come out another way we would all be spelling "flavor" with a "u" in it. Western New York was on the front lines of the final conflict between the former colonies and Great Britain, and some of the action is recreated this weekend at Old Fort Niagara.

The War of 1812 Encampment will take over the National Historic Landmark Aug. 31 and Sept. 1 to reenact the British attack on the fort. It won't be completely authentic: besides the lack of real cannon fire, the original attack took place in December 1813, when the weather likely was far less hospitable.

Activities include games for the kids, military music, artillery demonstrations and examples of the soldiers' daily lives. Admission is $14 for adults, $10 for children ages 6 to 12. Fort Niagara State Park is in the Town of Porter, just north of Youngstown, at the mouth of the Niagara River on Lake Ontario.

Hotel Henry's footsteps of art

Consider it a perfect opportunity to get acquainted with a Buffalo treasure, to experience the work of talented artists or to revisit some of summer's special moments. The Hotel Henry in the Richardson Olmsted Campus (444 Forest Ave.) is hosting the free "Art Walk: Summer Denouement" from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Aug. 30.

Visitors to the Urban Resort Conference Center will find art by five local artists – Bruce Adams, Sheila Barcik, Richard Huntington, Felice Koenig and Michael Lee Jackson – on display in the venue's 180,000 square feet of space, with the architectural features of the venue complimenting the art.

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