West Side Story is one of the most famous musicals in the classical canon and is regularly performed all over the world. Based on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet the musical boasts one of the most memorable scores ever written for the stage, with songs such as ‘Tonight’, ‘Maria’, ‘America’ and ‘I Feel Pretty’ written by Leonard Bernstein with lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. Although the original 1957 production didn’t run for long, the success of the film adaptation helped cement the show into the American culture. Relocating the story to 1950s New York where two rival gangs The Sharks and The Jets battle for turf, star crossed lovers Maria and Tony meet ending in tragic circumstances. Arthur Laurents’ book provides a timeless adaptation, twinned with Jerome Robbins’ phenomenal dance numbers that makes this an incredible show.
'Romeo and Juliet' by William Shakespeare
Original Broadway Production
Winter Garden - Opened 26 Sep 1957, closed 1 Jan 1970, 732 performances
Cast: Larry Kert as Tony, Carol Lawrence as Maria, Chita Rivera as Anita and David Winters as Baby John.
Original London Production
Her Majesty's Theatre - Opened 12 Dec 1958, closed 1 Jun 1961
Cast: George Chakiris as Riff, Marlys Watters as Maria, Don McKay as Tony, and Chita Rivera reprising her Broadway role as Anita
First Broadway Revival
Minskoff Theatre - Opened 14 Feb 1980, closed 30 Nov 1980
Cast: Ken Marshall as Tony, Hector Jamie Mercado as Bernardo, Josie de Guzman as Maria, and Debbie Allen as Anita
Second Broadway Revival
Palace Theatre - Opened 23 Feb 2009, closed 2 Jan 2011
Cast: Matt Cavenaugh as Tony, Josefina Scaglione as Maria and Karen Olivo as Anita.
West Side Story - London Revival 2008
Sadler's Wells - Opened 7 Aug 2013, closed 22 Sep 2013
What was your favourite production? Add your thoughts in the comments box
Boy meets girl, boy’s gang hates girl’s gang, both sides rumble complete with aggressive ballet, judging siblings and quasi opera.
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A danced Prologue sets up the turf warfare between the Sharks and the Jets in the upper west side of Manhattan. Riff, the leader of the Jets proclaims war, telling Bernardo, leader of the Sharks that they should watch their backs. Officer Krupke and Lieutenant Shrank warn both sides that they don’t want to see any more trouble. Riff attempts to convince Tony to rejoin the Jets, but he has moved on and is now working at Doc’s Drug Store waiting for something that he feels is just around the corner.
Bernardo’s sister Maria is preparing to attend her first dance with the help of Bernardo’s girlfriend Anita. She is excited at the prospect and is full of youthful optimism, and not so keen on her date Chino. At the Dance at the Gym both sides come to blows once more, but Tony and Maria meet across the floor, melting away into their own world. As they escape the gym, Tony sings ‘Maria’ and later goes to find her on her balcony where they fall instantly in love. Meanwhile the Sharks return from the dance and Anita and Rosalia sing of their differing opinions of ‘America’. At Doc’s store, the Jets keep ‘Cool’ and prepare to rumble with the Sharks. Tony visits Maria at the bridal shop where she works, and Anita grows suspicious of their relationship, warning Maria against causing trouble. The pair make a mock wedding ceremony and commit to ‘One Hand, One Heart’. Both gangs prepare to rumble under the highway, and as Riff and Bernardo fight, Riff is stabbed. Tony rushes in to break it up, and seeing his best friend lying dead, launches an attack on Bernardo and kills him.
Maria continues to walk on cloud nine, singing ‘I Feel Pretty’. She is interrupted by Chino, who tells her what has happened at the rumble. As Tony enters she is distraught and the pair wish to be taken to somewhere they can all be free. In a dream ballet sequence we see how they wish their lives to be, away from the fighting and the division. They spend the night together. Anita startles Maria, and Tony escapes just in time. Anita is furious, warning Maria about ‘A Boy Like That’, but Maria protests her love and convinces her that they should be together. Anita promises to help Maria and warns her that Chino has a gun and is looking to kill Tony. She goes to Doc’s drug-store to warn him, but is attacked by the Jet boys who attempt to rape her. She leaves angrily, telling Tony that Maria is already dead. Tony takes to the streets, and is shot by Chino. Maria makes it to him just in time and the pair reconcile. As he passes away Maria blames both sides, saying they were all responsible for his death, as the curtain silently falls.
- Jet Song
- Something’s Coming
- The Dance At The Gym (Part 1: Blues)
- Part 2: Promenade/Mambo/Cha-Cha
- Part 3: Meeting Scene
- Part 4: Jump
- Balcony Scene
- Continuation of Scene
- One Hand One Heart
- The Rumble
- I Feel Pretty
- Ballet Sequence part 1 (Transition to Scherzo/scherzo/Somewhere)
- Ballet conclusion (Procession and Nightmare)
- Gee Officer Krupke
- A Boy Like That/I Have A Love
- Taunting Scene
1958 Tony Awards: Best Choreography (Jerome Robbins), Best Scenic Design (Oliver Smith)
1980 Drama Desk Award: Best Featured Actress (Debbie Allen)
2009 Grammy Award (Best Show Album)
2009 Tony Award: Best Featured Actress in a Musical (Karen Olivo)
UK: Josef Weinberger
USA: Musical Theatre International