Pulled directly from the pages of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, the musical takes place on New York's West Side in the mid-1950s amidst widespread racial and social tension. The show begins as a war is building between two rival gangs fighting over the same piece of turf: born and bred New York boys, The Jets, and Puerto Rican immigrants The Sharks. In the midst of the battlefield are two young romantics, good-boy Tony, a Jet ready to leave the gang life behind, and wide-eyed Maria, the sister of Sharks leader, Bernardo. When Tony and Maria unexpectedly meet and fall for one another, tension between the rival groups only escalates, leading to a bloody and senseless rumble that costs both sides young lives. In spite of the violence, the true story at the core of the show is two lovers trying to find a way to be together—and whether either can survive when hate and ignorance are unwilling to yield.
This fresh, bold production is so exciting it makes you ache with pleasure. It's both airborne and transcendent.Review by John Lahr from The New Yorker
Having the Sharks speakin their native tongue is brilliant! The excitement and emotional force of this revival don't need translation. It feels incredibly right for New York to have a story this bittersweet back in Times Square, where is belongs.Review by Jeremy McCarter from Newsweek
What Is West Side Story Like?
Considered a great groundbreaking musical, West Side Story has remained a poignant, provocative and emotionally devastating piece of theater for over half a century. Dark in tone and content, the show is flush with many of legendary composer Leonard Bernstein's most famous compositions, offering a richly layered score played by a full orchestra—a rare find, even on Broadway, these days. Factor in recreations of original director and choreographer Jerome Robbins' equally iconic choreography, and the production becomes an electrifying piece of musical drama. Despite West Side's difficult themes, the show also offers some of the biggest, brightest crowd-pleasers in theater history, including uber-ballad “Tonight,” the chirpy "America" and the hilariously macabre "Gee Officer Krupke." The show may be a rollercoaster of emotions, but it offers something for every taste.
Is West Side Story Good for Kids?
Let's make one thing clear—audience members of all ages should come armed with tissues. Like its Shakespearian predecessor, all is not well that doesn’t end well, so those upset by anything less than a pitch-perfect happy ending should enter warily. The show also deals with adult themes: violence, murder, rape and bigotry all get their turn in the spotlight, as do bad language, sexual innuendos and racial slurs. While the tiniest tots may not be ready for this sort of musical education, West Side Story is a valuable experience for theater buffs and newbies alike. If your brood can handle the Academy Award-winning film, then they (and you) will be well prepared for what will play out on the Broadway stage.