West Side Story was the first musical I ever did in high school and I am excited to revisit it over 25 years later! It is a magical collaboration: great music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, originally choreographed and conceived by Jerome Robbins – and to complete the perfect musical, a great book by Arthur Laurents. The musical, based on Romeo and Juliet, explores the rivalry between the Sharks and the Jets, competing street gangs in New York in the mid-1950s.
Tony, a former Jet, falls in love with Maria, the sister of Bernardo who happens to be the leader of the Sharks. No one can stop Maria and Tony from trying to break through the stereotypes and social constraints to find true love. However, it goes tragically wrong, and the action doesn’t stop until the climactic and heartbreaking ending.
It is a classic story told through soaring ballads, rousing up-tempos, and extended dance sequences. The dark theme and focus on social problems marked a turning point in American Musical Theater. West Side Story is a bridge between the so-called “Golden Age” musicals of Rodgers and Hammerstein and the Sondheim era that was about to begin. What had once been termed “musical comedy” became “musical theatre,” as producers and directors realized for the first time that the principles of serious drama should be applied to serious musicals.
The West Side Story that audiences love is the version I remember from my childhood. Now, it’s a different story. The social condition of two 1950s teenage street gangs, Puerto Rican immigrants versus American whites, in a turf war that wounds with racial slurs and switchblades has escalated to hate speech and shootings posted on social media, while on the nightly news we face political crisis on immigration and citizenship.
West Side Story is about many things: rage and power, belonging and frustration – but most of all it’s about the scourge of prejudice, and its implications for love. West Side Story faced, for the first time in a musical, the harsh reality that things don’t always work out and sometimes hatred has the final say. It’s a painful universal truth that we can unfortunately still pluck straight out of today’s headlines.
Hopefully, in watching this classic, we can be reminded about not only what makes this country great, but why now, more than ever, it is important to set aside prejudices and hatred and move forward with kindness, compassion, empathy and acceptance.
Please enjoy this beautiful classic featuring some of Broadway’s most beloved songs.
Lean forward and open your heart.
West Side Story
Music by Leonard Bernstein
Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Book by Arthur Laurents
Directed by Alfred Weser
Jun 20,21,22,23,27,28,29,30 2019
“From the first notes to the final breath, West Side Story is one of the most memorable musicals and greatest love stories of all time. Arthur Laurents’ book remains as powerful, poignant and timely as ever. The score by Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim is widely regarded as one of the best ever written. The world’s greatest love story takes to the streets in this landmark Broadway musical that is one of the theatre’s finest accomplishments.
Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is transported to modern-day New York City as two young, idealistic lovers 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 is one of the most innovative, heart-wrenching and relevant musical dramas of our time.”