Before its five Broadway revivals, two major screen adaptations, and countless tours, regional runs, and school productions, Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim, and Arthur Laurents' modernized take on Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, West Side Story, made its Broadway debut September 26, 1957.
The musical famously did not win big at that season's Tony Awards, losing Best Musical to The Music Man, but the work has become one of the most enduring musicals in the canon. It set new standards for what it meant to be a triple-threat performer—meaning an actor who acts, sings, and dances—with Jerry Robbins' direction and choreography taking storytelling through dance to new heights. Bernstein and Sondheim's score introduced songs that would become true standards in households worldwide, including "Something's Coming," "Maria," "I Feel Pretty," "America," and "Somewhere," among others.
Today, as the landmark musical celebrates the 65th anniversary of its Broadway bow, we're taking a look back at more than half a century of West Side Story, beginning with the original production, which starred Larry Kert as Tony, Carol Lawrence as Maria, Ken Le Roy as Bernardo, and Chita Rivera as Anita.
In 2017 following a project to digitize photos from the original production of West Side Story from the New York Public Library's Martha Swope, Friedman-Abeles, Florence Vandamm, Kenn Duncan, and Avery Willard collections, the institution created these "moving" photos made up of multiple shots taken in a flurry, offering a chance to revisit Broadway history before as never before.
The work's third Broadway revival opened February 14, 1980, at the Minskoff Theatre, a re-mount of the original production with Robbins' original staging and the original physical designs. Featured in the cast was Debbie Allen, then freshly off the massive success of Fame, as Anita, along with Ken Marshall as Tony, Josie de Guzman as Maria, and Héctor Jaime Mercado as Bernardo.
Book writer Arthur Laurents was at the helm for the fourth Broadway revival in 2009, which placed Robbins' original staging in a new physical production. The revival also introduced new Spanish-language material by Lin-Manuel Miranda. Starring in the cast were Josefina Scaglione as Maria, Matt Cavenaugh as Tony, KO (formerly Karen Olivo) as Anita, and George Akram as Bernardo. KO won a Tony Award.
The first major production to dispense with Robbins' original choreography, the fifth Broadway revival of West Side Story in 2020, featured direction by Ivo van Hove and choreography by Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, with Isaac Powell starring as Tony, Shereen Pimentel as Maria, Amar Ramasar as Bernardo, and Yesenia Ayala as Anita.
West Side Story got the ever-so-rare second big screen adaptation in 2021 via director Steven Spielberg, with a new screenplay from Tony Kushner. Starring were Ansel Elgort as Tony, Rachel Zegler as Maria, and Broadway favorites Ariana DeBose as Anita and Tony winner David Alvarez as Bernardo, with DeBose going on to win a 2022 Academy Award for her performance.