Based on William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, West Side Story reimagines the story playing it in New York in the ‘50s. It follows two street gangs - the Jets, a gang of white teenagers, and the Sharks, a group of Puerto Rican - as Tony, a Jet, falls for Maria, sister of the leader of the Sharks.
West Side Story has a book by Arthur Laurents with music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics from Stephen Sondheim. It features classic musical tunes, such as “I Feel Pretty”, “America”, “Somewhere”, “Maria” and “Tonight”.
The production debuted on Broadway at the the Winter Garden Theatre, after tryouts in Washington DC and Philadelphia, in August 1957. The show was directed and choreographed by Jerome Robbins, and starred Larry Kert, Carol Lawrence and Chita Rivera. The Broadway production ran for 732 performances and closed in June 1959.
Before the Broadway production closed, the musical had opened at Manchester Opera House and transferred to London’s Her Majesty’s Theatre in 1958. The UK premiere was also directed by Jerome Robbins, and starred George Chakiris, Don McKay and Chita Rivera (who reprised her role form the Broadway show).
The musical was adapted for the silver screen in 1961 and starred Natalie Wood, Richard Beymer, Russ Tamblyn, Rita Moreno and George Chakiris. It became the second highest-grossing film of the year, and was deemed "culturally significant" by the United States Library of Congress in the 1990s.
At the end of the ‘90s, the musical was revived in London. Directed by Robbins, the show opened in October 1998 at the Prince Edward Theatre, and transferred to the Prince of Wales in January 1999. It starred Kate Knight-Adams, David Habbin, Anna-Jane Casey.
West Side Story was last seen in a major London theatre in 2008, when Joey McKneely directed the production at Sadler’s Wells. It returned to the theatre in 2013.