West Side Story


The first idea for this Romeo and Juliet retelling is from 1949. In East Side Story the two Shakespearean families were replaced by Catholics and Jews, with Maria being a holocaust survivor.  When it was written, the three producers opted out because it was not original enough. 

It was put on hold for five years, and then it was rewritten to West Side Story, with the Jets being white American, and the Sharks the Puerto Ricans. Leonard Bernstein wanted to make the piece into an opera, but that was not the intention of the other members of the creative team. 

The record is from 1984, and I remember seeing it as a movie around that time. I cannot find that particular production though. It is conducted by the composer himself, which is usually an advantage. Oddly, the most famous part of this work is hidden. “Somewhere” is part of a ballet in the second act. Also, in my mind it is sung by Tom Waits. 

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