Welcome to Theatre Talk with Vanessa! Here I will give a brief synopsis of musicals that I have listened to, and give you my opinion in depth on my favorite and least favorite aspects of the show. Feel free to send in any shows you want me to write about listen to if I’m unfamiliar with the show!
This week I have decided to talk about another classic musical adaptation of a piece of famous literature. The famous musical based off of William Shakespeare’s most widely loved play, “Romeo and Juliet,” follows the rivalry between the Jets (Caucasian Americans) and the Sharks (Puerto Rican Americans) and their struggle for control over their neighborhood in New York. Tony and Maria who are associated with the Jets and the Sharks, respectively, fall in love with one another but cannot be together because of their circumstances. The show was written by Arthur Laurents, with music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim.
The music is extremely recognizable, with a jazz and classical mix to the cast recording. The instrumentals do a fantastic job of portraying the emotions in each scene, even without words. The show is also known for its wide array of dancing throughout.
“West Side Story” opened on Broadway on Sept. 26, 1957 at the Winter Garden Theatre and ran for 732 performances, with the show closing on June 27, 1959. There have been numerous revivals in the years of 1960, 1964, 1980, 2009 and coming in 2020, there will be another revival of this beloved show. Along with the many productions, there was a movie adaption released in 1961 with Natalie Wood and Richard Beymer portraying Maria and Tony, respectively. Steven Spielberg has directed another movie adaptation of “West Side Story” that is set to release Dec. 18, 2020, with Ansel Elgort as Tony and newcomer Rachel Zegler as Maria.
The opening Broadway production received multiple Tony nominations, including Best Musical, Best Costume Design, Best Conductor and Musical Director as well as Best Performance in a Featured Role for Carole Lawrence — who portrayed Maria, with them taking home two Tony awards for Best Choreography and Best Scenic Design.
“West Side Story” holds a special place in my heart because there are so many roles for Hispanic people, and I myself am Puerto Rican from my father’s side. It is not often that multiple lead roles, let alone one, are specifically for people of color. Maria is on my list of roles that I would love to play before I die. I also believe that the story “West Side Story” tells is timeless. The decision to make the Sharks Puerto Ricans was not one that was random. It was to show the racial discrimination between Hispanics and Americans at the time that the play was released. Now more than ever, there is a divide in our country and this story can help portray those struggles today as well as they did in the 50s.
Overall, “West Side Story” is a fun and meaningful show that is diverse, impactful and truly ground-breaking. Watch out for tickets for the revival in the coming months, as well as the film adaptation next December.
Vanessa Rodriguez-Mclean is a first-year student majoring in media and culture with a minor in journalism. VR925245@wcupa.edu