About West Side Story
The musical West Side Story was first produced on Broadway in 1957 and in 1961 it was made into a highly successful movie that garnered ten Academy Awards.
The plot is based on one of Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies, Romeo and Juliet, which was written in 1594 and subsequently became a symbol of tragic youthful love that knows no boundaries. Since it was first staged, the play has been performed in countless dance and musical versions, but the most touching of all is West Side Story in which the action takes place in mid-twentieth century New York, and instead of the enmity between the Capulets and the Montagues, the blood feud is between the members of two rival street gangs from different ethnic backgrounds: The Jets, native New Yorkers from immigrant Polish families, and The Sharks from Puerto Rico. Tony, a member of The Jets, falls in love with Maria, the sister of The Sharks’ leader, and thus decides his fate. Tony and Maria’s innocent love stands no chance in the racist society they live in, a society incapable of accepting the other, the different. But unlike Romeo and Juliet who find death at the end of the play, Tony and Maria, the protagonists of West Side Story, do not take their own lives. Tony is killed and Maria, in a heartrending monologue, accuses society of causing her beloved’s death.
West Side Story is one of the greatest musicals of all time, with each song a miniature masterpiece. The story, the sophisticated musical score, the brilliant dance scenes, and the focus on social problems constituted a turning point in American musical theatre.