PLAYBILL PICKS: Timeless Love Affairs on Stage

By Robert Simonson
13 Feb 2014

Carol Lawrence and Larry Kert
photo by Friedman-Abeles

West Side Story

In 1957 composer Leonard Bernstein, lyricist Stephen Sondheim, playwright Arthur Laurents and director-choreographer Jerome Robbins introduced audiences to Tony and Maria, contemporary versions of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, in the landmark musical West Side Story. The star-crossed lovers from warring families were reconceived as heralding from warring backgrounds – the established caucasian-American culture and the Puerto Rican immigrant families who were moving into the gritty Hell's Kitchen neighborhood of New York City. With its message of tolerance and plea for peace, West Side Story's characters and songs, including "Somewhere," "Tonight," "Maria" and "America," have become a part of classic American culture.