West Side Story

When playwright Arthur Laurents teamed up with director Jerome Robbins, composer Leonard Bernstein, and lyricist Stephen Sondheim in the mid 1950's, no one expected such a ground-breaking musical as was produced. Based on Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet," but set in New York with Puerto Rican Sharks verse White Jets instead of the original families, "West Side Story" dealt with transient social issues. This differed from "Romeo and Juliet" in that the latter was about timeless love and death - a subject many could relate to then, and many will be able to relate to forever. "West Side Story," on the other hand, concerned a more current issue, and thus was perhaps even more exciting for and relevant to musical-goers. "West Side Story" was one of the first musicals made dealing with modern topics. In addition to innovation of storyline and topic, "West Side Story" marked a breakthrough in dance and music. Leonard Bernstein described his musical as having "...a tremendously greater amount of music than [he] expected - ballet music, symphonic music, developmental music...." Going hand in hand with expanded music, Jerome Robbins also expanded the use of choreography and musical staging, helping to create the first outright dance musical. "West Side Story" opened on Broadway, starring Larry Kurt as Tony and Carol Lawrence as Maria, both of whom had almost exclusively performed in musical comedies, on September 26th of 1957 at the Winter Garden Theater. Although the cast only performed 732 times before the show went on tour, it was well received by critics and New Yorkers. "West Side Story," however, has only recently come to be regarded as one of the most genius Broadway musicals ever made.

Fun Fact: For the lyrics to a comical song, "Officer Krupke," Stephen Sondheim originally ended it with the words "Gee, Officer Krupke, F**k you!" However, when he noticed the producers wince at the sound of his line, he went to Leonard Bernstein seeking his advice. Although Bernstein was not a lyricist, he was quick to suggest that Sondheim instead write "Gee, Officer Krupke, Krup you!" This was Bernstein's sole contribution to the musical lyrically, but is a key line in "West Side Story."

 

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Prologue

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Gee Officer Krupke

 

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