More than fifty years ago one musical changed theater forever.
Now it’s back and mesmerizing audiences once again. From the first note to the final breath, West Side Story soars as the greatest love story of all time.
This revival, based on Tony Award-winning librettist Arthur Laurents’ Broadway direction, remains as powerful, poignant and timely as ever. The Bernstein and Sondheim score is considered to be one of Broadway’s finest and features such classics of the American musical theatre as “Something’s Coming,” “Tonight,” “America,” “I Feel Pretty” and “Somewhere.”
As the Associated Press says, “West Side Story remains Broadway’s best dance-driven musical. Five decades have not dimmed the extraordinary choreography or the score that pulsates throughout.”
West Side Story Tour FAQ Sheet
Q: When did West Side Story originally open on Broadway? When did this revival open on Broadway?
A: The original production of West Side Story opened on Broadway on Sept. 26, 1957. The revival on which this tour is based opened on Broadway on March 19, 2009 and closed on January 2, 2011 and is the longest-running, most successful version of West Side Story to play Broadway to date.
Q: Is this tour directed by Arthur Laurents?
A: No, Arthur’s Broadway direction has been recreated for the tour by the Broadway production’s Associate Director, David Saint. Arthur oversaw David’s direction on the tour until his passing in May 2011.
Q: How is this revival different from the original 1957 production?
A: This is a tougher, more real production of West Side Story. Some of the musical theater comedy elements have been removed or tweaked so that the content is a darker reality. Also, dialogue that dated the show and made it seem stuck in the 1950’s has been removed. The Puerto Rican characters sometimes sing and speak in Spanish, which not only gives them more authenticity, but reflects the sounds of New York City today. As a result, the timeless universality of the show is felt as powerfully and with as much relevance now as when it was first written.
Q: Why was the decision made to include Spanish in the show?
A: Arthur Laurents and the producers agreed allowing the Sharks to express themselves in the way they would actually talk – mixing English with Spanish – would empower them as characters and result in a deeper emotional impact for the audience. It was also a way of “equalizing” the Sharks with the Jets. In so many productions of West Side Story, the Jets feel like the heroes. By giving the Sharks their language it levels the playing field. It also reinforces and amplifies the huge divide between the two gangs. It also is one of the ways to make the show feel less like a period piece and more universal, set in no specific time period at all.
Q: Has some of the Spanish from the Broadway production been removed for the tour?
A: No. The tour has the same amount of Spanish as the Broadway production. No Spanish was removed for the tour. Some of the Spanish was removed from the Broadway production in the summer of 2009, but that was the last change made to the script, and no further changes will be made. There is approximately 10% of Spanish sung and spoken in the show. However, this is not a bilingual production as the majority of the dialogue and lyrics are in English.
Q: Why was some of the Spanish removed from the Broadway production?
A: Mixing Spanish with English absolutely strengthened the depiction of the Sharks. But performing the songs “I Feel Pretty” and “A Boy Like That” exclusively in Spanish proved problematic. It turned out that many theatergoers were not familiar with the show or even familiar with Romeo & Juliet, so they didn’t understand what was going on in those pivotal scenes. In the summer of 2009, the creative team restored about half of the English to “A Boy Like That” and “I Feel Pretty”, which resulted in more audience engagement and laughs. What now exists is a perfect balance that offers audiences the most authentic emotional expression of the piece while enhancing its universality.
Q: How much Spanish is in the show?
A: The revival of West Side Story incorporates some Spanish in the dialogue and lyrics. In Act 1, there are a number of lines expressed in Spanish. In Act 2, “I Feel Pretty” and “A Boy Like That” are both sung in about 50/50 English-Spanish. In summary, about 10% of the spoken and/or sung words of this West Side Story are in Spanish and 90% are in English. This production is largely English.
Q: Why is the age recommendation for the show 13+?
A: While West Side Story is a show beloved by multiple generations, there is content in the show that is not for young children. There is strong language, violence and some sensitive subject matter that is true to the story and plot. Specifically, there are several deaths on stage, an attempted rape scene and the Officer Krupke number has suggestive language and gestures. Parents should use their best judgment as to whether this show is appropriate for their child.
This is an On Stage event.
Celebrity Café Speaker, 30 minutes prior to the show
Brad Dell, ISU Assistant Professor of Theatre
- Brad Dell is an Assistant Professor of Theatre at Iowa State University, where he teaches classes in Directing, Acting, Musical Theatre, and Script Analysis. Since his start at Iowa State in 2005, Brad has directed Rent, Hedda Gabler, Kiss Me, Kate, Orpheus Descending, Gypsy, Sweeney Todd, Guys and Dolls, Orpheus Descending, Fifth of July, Three Sisters, My Fair Lady, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, The Marriage of Figaro, and The Music Man.. He was awarded the 2012 “Local Treasure” award from the Ames Community Arts Council.. Brad is the Vice-President of Story Theatre Company in Ames, Iowa and is the Artistic Advisor of StageWest Theatre Company, where he has directed The History Boys, Almost, Maine, Fat Pig, Next Fall, and The Seafarer. He also played the leading role in Harvey Fierstein’s epic play Torch Song Trilogy at StageWest in June 2010.