Cool Boy boy crazy boy.JPG


"Boy, Boy, crazy boy,"

Mambo Excerpt.jpg


Version B of Mambo.

"A Boy Like That"

"A Boy Like That"

A Boy like that

An excerpt from the score.

Krup You!

Krup You!

Gee, Officer Krupke

The ending of Gee, Officer Krupke.

I Feel Pretty

I Feel Pretty

I feel pretty

Excerpt from the score.


Notes and Letters


from martha gellhorn to Bernstein

The writer Martha Gellhorn wrote this detailed and heartfelt letter to Bernstein, laying bare her intense reactions to West Side Story:

"Lenny pot my dearie one; I waited for the right time to write about West Side Story but probably the exact right time will never come, so now on a rainy (can you beat it?) Guernavaca morning, my fourth here, and my first not spent jumping with rage and activity against this house, I shall begin. But I know I am not going to do it well enough.

"How can it be called a "musical comedy"? It is a musical tragedy, and were it not for the most beautiful music, and the dancing which is like flying, people would not be able to bear to look and see and understand. Certainly they would not pile into that giant stadium, paying huge sums, in order to be wracked by fear and a pity which is useless because how can help be offered, how can a whole world be changed?

". . . I was literally frozen with fear. Do you realize there is no laughter in it, no gayety [sic] that comes from delight, from joy, from being young? You do, of course, and all of you knew what you were writing about. The immensely funny song, "Please Officer Krupke" (I will get these titles wrong, but near enough), is not laughter, but the most biting, ironic and contemptuous satire. And I felt it to be absolutely accurate--not the perfection of the wit, in music and words--but accurate as describing the state of mind of those young. Again, the Puerto Rican girls' song, when on longs for the beauty of home and the other mocks, is not laughter; but the hardness of life, the rock of life, a dream of something softer (softer inside, where it counts) as against the icy material measuring rod of modern big city young. The love songs made me cry (they had before, when I heard the whole show twice in one day, listening to Shaw's record in Switzerland.) But this time, with the visual picture there, and the murderous city outside, and in America, where West Side Story becomes a sociological document turned into art, they made me cry like a sieve, from heart-broken pity.

"But what stays in my mind, as the very picture of terror, is the scene in the drug store, when the Jets sing a song called "Keep Cool, Man." I think I have never heard or seen anything more frightening. (It goes without saying that I think the music so brilliant I have no words to use for it.) I found that a sort of indicator of madness: the mad obsession with nothing, the nerves insanely and constantly stretched--with no way to rest, no place to go; the emptiness of the undirected minds, whose only occupation could be violence and a terrible macabre play-acting. If a man can be nothing, he can pretend to be a hoodlum and feel like a somebody. I couldn't breathe, watching and hearing that; it looks to me like doom, as much as these repeated H-bomb tests, with the atmosphere of the world steadily more and more irrevocably poisoned. I think that drug store and the H-bomb tests are of the same family.

"What now baffles me is that all the reviews, and everyone who has seen the show, has not talked of this and this only: the mirror held up to nature, and what nature. I do not feel anything to be exaggerated or falsified; we accept that art renders beautiful, and refines the shapeless raw material of life. The music and the dancing, the plan, the allegory of the story do that; but nature is there, in strength; and surely this musical tragedy is a warning. . . ."

Letter to Felicia Montealegre Bernstein

26 JULY 1957

This letter was written by Bernstein to his wife, Felicia, on July 26, 1957. On the second page, he writes:

"... The show -- ah, yes. I am depressed with it. All the aspects of the score I like best -- the `big,' poetic parts -- get criticized as `operatic' -- & there's a concerted move to chuck them. What's the use? The 24-hour schedule goes on -- I am tired & nervous & apey. You wouldn't like me at all these days. This is the last show I do. The Philharmonic board approved the contract yesterday, & all is set. I'm going to be a conductor after all."

1997, Estate of Leonard Bernstein. By Permission of The Leonard Bernstein Office, Inc.

Letter from Leonard Bernstein to his wife Felicia Montealegre Bernstein. July 26, 1957. Typescript and holograph manuscript. Leonard Bernstein Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (18) By permission of The Leonard Bernstein Office, Inc.

Letter from Leonard Bernstein to his wife Felicia Montealegre Bernstein. August 15, 1957. Typescript and holograph manuscript.  Leonard Bernstein Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (24) By permission of The Leonard Bernstein Office, Inc.

Letter to Felicia Montealegre Bernstein,

15 AUGUST 1957

West Side Story opened in Washington D.C. in August, 1957. Bernstein wrote this letter to his wife Felicia on August 15, the week before the premiere.

"Well, look-a me. Back to the nation's capitol, & right on the verge. This is Thurs. We open Mon. Everyone's coming, my dear, even Nixon and 35 admirals. Senators abounding, & big Washington-hostessy type party afterwards in Lennuhtt's [a play on the pronunciation of "Leonard"] honor. See what you miss by going away. Then next Sunday, which is my birthday, there is the Jewish version -- a big party for me, but admission is one Israel bond. All helps the show. We have a 75 thou. Advance, & the town is buzzing. Not bad. I have high hopes.."

1997, Estate of Leonard Bernstein. By Permission of The Leonard Bernstein Office, Inc.

Letter to Felicia Montealegre Bernstein

8 AUGUST 1957

On August 8, 1957, Bernstein wrote this letter to his wife Felicia about his work on West Side Story.

"I missed you terribly yesterday -- we wrote a new song for Tony that's a killer, & it just wasn't the same not playing it first for you. It's really going to save his character -- a driving 2/4 in the great tradition (but of course fucked up by me with 3/4s and whatnot) -- but it gives Tony balls -- so that he doesn't emerge as just a euphoric dreamer.

"These days have flown so -- I don't sleep much; I work every -- literally every -- second (since I'm doing four jobs on this show -- composing, lyric-writing, orchestrating and rehearsing the cast). It's murder, but I'm excited. It may be something extraordinary. We're having our first run thru for PEOPLE on Friday -- Please may they dig it!."

1997, Estate of Leonard Bernstein. By Permission of The Leonard Bernstein Office, Inc.

Letter from Leonard Bernstein to his wife Felicia Montealegre Bernstein.  August 8, 1957. Typescript and holograph manuscript. Leonard Bernstein Collection, Music Division, The Library of Congress (21) By permission of The Leonard Bernstein Office, Inc.

Original Broadway Playbill, 1958. Courtesy of the Playbill Vault.

Stephen Sondheim to Bernstein


Stephen Sondheim, lyricist of West Side Story, wrote this letter to Bernstein on September 26, 1957, the date of the New York premiere of the show.

"West Side Story means much more to me than a first show, more even than the privilege of collaborating with you and Arthur [Laurents] and Jerry [Robbins]..

"I don't think I've ever said to you how fine I think the score is, since I prefer kidding you about the few moments I don't like to praising you for the many I do. West Side Story is as big a step forward for you as it is for Jerry or Arthur or even me and, in an odd way, I feel proud of you.

"May West Side Story mean as much to the theater and to people who see it as it has to us."

This is Bernstein's copy of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, with his annotation "An out and out plea for racial tolerance" at the top of the first page.

William Shakespeare. Romeo and Juliet. Boston: Ginn and Co., 1940. Ed. by George Kittredge. Leonard Bernstein Collection, Music Division of The Library of Congress (1) By permission of The Leonard Bernstein Office, Inc.

In 1957, when West Side Story premiered, Bernstein published a log of the show's genesis. This is his typescript:

Excerpts from A West Side Log

New York, 6 Jan., 1949

Jerry R. called today with a noble idea: a modern version of "Romeo and Juliet," set in slums at the coincidence of Easter-Passover celebrations. Feelings running high between Jews and Catholics. Former: Capulets, latter: Montagues. Juliet is Jewish. Friar Lawrence is a neighborhood druggist. Street brawls, double death -- it all fits. But it's all much less important than the bigger idea of making a musical that tells a tragic story in musical comedy terms, using only musical comedy techniques, never falling into the "operatic" trap. Can it succeed? It hasn't yet in our country. I'm excited. If it can work -- it's a first. Jerry suggests Arthur Laurents for the book. I don't know him, but I do know "Home of the Brave" at which I cried like a baby. He sounds just right.

New York, 10 Jan., 1949
Met Arthur L. at Jerry's tonight. Long talk about opera versus whatever this should be. Fascinating. We're going to have a stab at it.

Columbus, Ohio, 15 April, 1949
Just received draft of first four scenes. Much good stuff. But this is no way to work. Me on this long conducting tour, Arthur between New York and Hollywood. Maybe we'd better wait until I can find a continuous hunk of time to devote to the project. Obviously this show can't depend on stars, being about kids; and so is will have to live or die by the success of its collaborations; and this remote-control collaboration isn't right. Maybe they can find the right composer who isn't always skipping off to conduct somewhere. It's not fair to them or to the work.

New York, 7 June, 1955
Jerry hasn't given up. Six years of postponement are as nothing to him. I'm still excited too. So is Arthur. Maybe I can plan to give this year to "Romeo" -- if "Candide" gets on in time.

Beverly Hills, 25 August, 1955
Had a fine long session with Arthur today, by the pool. (He's here for a movie; I'm conducting at the Hollywood Bowl.) We're fired again by the "Romeo" notion; only now we have abandoned the whole Jewish-Catholic premise as not very fresh, and have come up with what I think is going to be it: two teen-age gangs as the warring factions, one of them newly-arrived Puerto Ricans, the other self-styled "Americans." Suddenly it all springs to life. I hear rhythms and pulses, and -- most of all -- I can sort of feel the form.

New York, 6 Sept., 1955
Jerry [Robbins] loves our gang idea. A second solemn pact has been sworn. Here we go, God bless us!

New York, 14 Nov., 1955
A young lyricist named Stephen Sondheim came and sang us some of his songs today. What a talent! I think he's ideal for this project, as do we all. The collaboration grows.

New York, 17 March, 1956
"Candide" is on again; we plunge in next month. So again "Romeo" is postponed for a year. Maybe it's all for the best: by the time it emerges it ought to be deeply seasoned, cured, hung, aged in the wood. It's such a problematical work anyway that it should benefit by as much sitting-time as it can get. Chief problem: to tread the fine line between opera and Broadway, between realism and poetry, ballet and "just dancing," abstract and representational. Avoid being "messagy." The line is there, but it's very fine, and sometimes takes a lot of peering around to discern it.

New York, 1 Feb., 1957
"Candide" is on and gone; the Philharmonic has been conducted, back to "Romeo." From here on nothing shall disturb the project: whatever happens to interfere I shall cancel summarily. It's going too well now to let it drop again.

New York, 8 July, 1957
Rehearsals. Beautiful sketches for sets by Oliver. Irene showed us costume sketches: breathtaking. I can't believe it -- forty kids are actually doing it up there on the stage! Forty kids singing five-part counterpoint who never sang before -- and sounding like heaven. I guess we were right not to cast "singers": anything that sounded more professional would inevitably sound more experienced, and then the "kid" quality would be gone. A perfect example of a disadvantage turned into a virtue.

Washington, D.C., 20 Aug., 1957
The opening last night was just as we dreamed it. All the peering and agony and postponements and re-re-re-writing turn out to have been worth it. There's a work there; and whether it finally succeeds or not in Broadway terms, I am now convinced that what we dreamed all these years is possible; because there stands that tragic story, with a theme as profound as love versus hate, with all the theatrical risks of death and racial issues and young performers and "serious" music and complicated balletics -- and it all added up for audience and critics. I laughed and cried as though I'd never seen or heard it before. And I guess that what made it come out right is that we all really collaborated; we were all writing the same show. Even the producers were after the same goals we had in mind. Not even a whisper about a happy ending has been heard. A rare thing on Broadway. I am proud and honored to be a part of it.

1982, Leonard Bernstein.

Used by Permission of The Leonard Bernstein Office, Inc.

Jerome Robbins and Leonard Bernstein. Scene breakdown ca. 1949. Typescript with holograph annotations. Leonard Bernstein Collection, Music Division of The Library of Congress (2) Used by permission of The Robbins Rights Trust.

Jerome Robbins's scene list from West Side Story

This page, with Jerome Robbins' insignia, lists the scenes from one of the early versions of West Side Story. According to Bernstein's log, at this point the show was set "in the slums at the coincidence of Easter-Passover celebrations."


The Rumble from the 1961 film. Courtesy of United Artists.

Outside Philadelphia’s Erlanger Theatre before the two-week out-of-town tryout. Photographer unknown. Leonard Bernstein Collection, Music Division, Library of Congresss (28)

Leonard Bernstein outside the National Theatre in Washington, DC. Robert H. Phillips, photographer. Leonard Bernstein Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (27) Courtesy of the estate of the photographer

Dance at the Gym. West Side Story, Théâtre du Châtelet; Paris, France. Oct 2012 - Jan 2013. (Photo credit M.S. Théâtre du Chatelet)

Original Broadway Cast Album, 1957. Columbia Records.

Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim rehearse with original Broadway cast. Friedman-Abeles, photographer. Leonard Bernstein Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (25) Made available online with permission of  The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.

Rehearsal from 2016 Shiki Theatre Production. Photo by Takashi Uehara

Articles and Reviews

New York Herald Tribune

27 September 1957

From New York Herald Tribune, 9/27/57

Theater critic Walter Kerr wrote the following review of West Side Story for the New York Herald Tribune on September 27, 1957:

The radioactive fallout from "West Side Story" must still be descending on Broadway this morning.

Director, choreographer, and idea-man Jerome Robbins has put together, and then blasted apart, the most savage, restless, electrifying dance patterns we've been exposed to in a dozen seasons.

The curtain rises on a silence, and a pause. It is the last silence and the last pause. Against an empty-eyed background of warehouse windows five or six blue-jacketed young delinquents, with the tribal-mark "Jets" scrawled across their taut shoulders, are lounging, waiting for the first faint whisper of violence.

Their impatience comes to life in their fingers. A snapping rhythm begins to tap out a warning of mayhem to come. Knees begin to itch, and move, under the lazy, overcast mid-summer sky in Puerto-Rican New York.

The Sharks--equally young, equally sick with very old hatreds--appear from the alleyways in twos and threes. There is a sneer, a hiss, a tempting and tantalizing thrust of an arm, and then--with a powerhouse downbeat from the orchestra pit--the sorry and meaningless frenzy is on. From this moment the show rides with a catastrophic roar over the spider-web fire-escapes, the shadowed trestles, and the plain dirt battlegrounds of a big city feud.

Mr. Robbins never runs out of his original explosive life-force. Though the essential images are always the same--two spitting groups of people advancing with bared teeth and clawed fists upon one another--there is fresh excitement in the next debacle, and the next. When a gang leader advises his cohorts to play it "Cool," the intolerable tension between and effort at control and the instinctive drives of these potential killers is stingingly graphic. When the knives come out, and bodies begin to fly wildly through space under buttermilk clouds, the sheer visual excitement is breathtaking.

.[Robbins] has almost sacrificially assisted in this macabre and murderous onslaught of movement by composer Leonard Bernstein. Mr. Bernstein has permitted himself a few moments of graceful, lingering melody: in a yearning "Maria," in the hushed falling line of "Tonight," in the wistful declaration of "I Have a Love."

But for the most part he has served the needs of the onstage threshing machine, setting the fierce beat that fuses a gymnasium dance, putting a mocking insistence behind taunts at a policeman, dramatizing the footwork rather than lifting emotions into song. When hero Larry Kert is stomping out the visionary insistence of "Something's Coming" both music and tumultuous story are given their due. Otherwise it's the danced narrative that takes urgent precedence.

Theatre: "West Side Story," The Jungles of the City


Although the material is horrifying, the workmanship is admirable.

Gang warfare is the material of "West Side Story," which opened at the Winter Garden last evening, and very little of the hideousness has been left out. But the author, composer and ballet designer are creative artists. Pooling imagination and virtuosity, they have written a profoundly moving show that is as ugly as the city jungles and also pathetic, tender and forgiving.

Arthur Laurents has written the story of two hostile teen-age gangs fighting for supremacy amid the tenement houses, corner stores and bridges of the West Side. The story is a powerful one, partly, no doubt, because Mr. Laurents has deliberately given it the shape of "Romeo and Juliet." In the design of "West Side Story" he has powerful allies. Leonard Bernstein has composed another one of his nervous, flaring scores that capture the shrill beat of life in the streets. And Jerome Robbins, who has directed the production, is also its choreographer.

Since the characters are kids of the streets, their speech is curt and jeering. Mr. Laurents has provided the raw material of a tragedy that occurs because none of the young people involved understands what is happening to them. And his contribution is the essential one. But it is Mr. Bernstein and Mr. Robbins who orchestrate it. Using music and movement they have given Mr. Laurents' story passion and depth and some glimpses of unattainable glory. They have pitched into it with personal conviction as well as the skill of accomplished craftsmen.

In its early scenes of gang skirmishes, "West Side Story" is facile and a little forbidding -- the shrill music and the taut dancing movement being harsh and sinister. But once Tony of the Jets gang sees Maria of the Sharks gang, the magic of an immortal story takes hold. As Tony, Larry Kert is perfectly cast, plain in speech and manner; and as Maria, Carol Lawrence, maidenly soft and glowing, is perfectly cast also. Their balcony scene on the firescape of a dreary tenement is tender and affecting. From that moment on, "West Side Story" is an incandescent piece of work that finds odd bits of beauty amid the rubbish of the streets.

Everything in "West Side Story," is of a piece. Everything contributes to the total impression of wildness, ecstasy and anguish. The astringent score has moments of tranquility and rapture, and occasionally a touch of sardonic humor. And the ballets convey the things that Mr. Laurents is inhibited from saying because the characters are so inarticulate. The hostility and suspicion between the gangs, the glory of the nuptials, the terror of the rumble, the devastating climax -- Mr. Robbins has found the patterns of movement that express these parts of the story.

Most of the characters, in fact, are dancers with some images of personality lifted out of the whirlwind -- characters sketched on the wing. Like everything also in "West Side Story," they are admirable. Chita Rivera in a part equivalent to the nurse in the Shakespeare play; Ken Le Roy as leader of The Sharks; Mickey Calin as leader of The Jets; Lee Becker as a hobbledehoy girl in one gang -- give terse and vigorous performances.

Everything in "West Side Story" blends -- the scenery by Oliver Smith, the costumes by Irene Sharaff, the lighting by Jean Rosenthal. For this is one of those occasions when theatre people, engrossed in an original project, are all in top form. The subject is not beautiful. But what "West Side Story" draws out of it is beautiful. For it has a searching point of view.

(Originally published by the Daily News on September 27, 1957. This story was written by John Chapman.)

‘West Side Story’ premieres on Broadway in 1957


The American theatre took a venturesome forward step when the firm of Griffith & Prince presented "West Side Story" at the Winter Garden last evening.

This is a bold new kind of musical theatre - a juke-box Manhattan opera. It is, to me, extraordinarily exciting. In it, the various fine skills of show business are put to new tests, and as a result a different kind of musical has emerged.

The story is, roughly, Shakespeare's recounting of the love and deaths of Romeo and Juliet. But the setting is today's Manhattan, and the manner of telling the story is a provocative and artful blend of music, dance and plot - and the music and the dancing are superb.

Superb Score

In this present-day version of the theatre's greatest romance, the Montagus and Capulets become young New York gangs, one white, the other Puerto Rican. The Romeo is a white boy, the Juliet a Puerto Rican girl. In the big fight switch-blade knives are used instead of swords. The apothecary who gave Romeo his fateful potion now is a mild druggist who mans his soda fountain and wonders what the younger generation is coming to. And the younger generation, even if it does indulge in one rumble which results in murder, is not nearly as blackhearted as current news stories might make us believe.

The music of "West Side Story" is by Leonard Bernstein, and it is superb - and splendidly played by an orchestra directed by Max Goberman. In it there is the drive, the bounce, the restlessness and the sweetness of our town. It takes up the American musical idiom where it was left when George Gershwin died. It is fascinatingly tricky and melodically beguiling, and it marks the progression of admirable composer.

The story, about the fundamentally innocent hoodlums of our town, is by Arthur Laurents, and it is a lovely and moving one. But Laurents is not alone in telling this story, for his collaborator is Jerome Robbins, the choreographer. Robbins and his superb young dancers carry the plot as much as the spoken words and lyrics do.

The lyrics, by Stephen Sondheim, have simple grace, and there is a lovely tribute by the sidewalk Romeo to his dusky girl, Maria. There is a really beautiful scene in which the boy and the girl go through a make believe wedding in a shop for bridal clothing. And there is an uproariously funny one in which a so-called juvenile delinquent gets a going-over by all the authorities whose problem he is - the cop, the judge, the social worker and the psychiatrist. This young hoodlum manages to make his elders look pretty silly.

Wonderful Cast

The cast of "West Side Story" is, next to the music, the best part of the production. It is composed of young people of whom few have been heard. Carol Lawrence and Larry Kert carry the love story with effortless simplicity, and they sing beautifully. There are other engaging performances by Chita Rivera, Mickey Calin, Ken Le Roy and Art Smith (the druggist). But the company itself is the star of the show. These boys and girls sing, dance and act with such skill and sincerity that they bring the audience out of its seats and up on the stage with them - and the stage is not a stage but this fascinating and fearful town of Manhattan.

And the settings by Oliver Smith and the costumes by Irene Sharaff are a perfect part of a perfect production.


1957 Broadway Cast/Crew (Opening Night)


Mickey Calin
The Leader, The Jets

Larry Kert
Riff's Friend

Carol Lawrence
Bernardo's Sister

Ken Le Roy
The Leader, The Sharks

Chita Rivera
Bernardo's Girl

Art Smith
One of the Adults

Lee Becker
A Jet

Grover Dale
A Jet

Arch Johnson
One of the Adults

Tony Mordente
A Jet

Eddie Roll
A Jet

David Winters
Baby John
A Jet

Tommy Abbott
A Jet

William Bramley
One of the Adults

Hank Brunjes
A Jet

Erne Castaldo
A Shark

Martin Charnin
Big Deal
A Jet

Marilyn Cooper
One of the Sharks' Girls

Wilma Curley
One of the Jets' Girls

Carole D'Andrea
One of the Jets' Girls

Al De Sio
A Shark

Marilyn D'Honau
One of the Jets' Girls

Gene Gavin
A Shark

Frank Green
Mouth Piece
A Jet

Reri Grist
One of the Sharks' Girls

Carmen Gutierrez
One of the Sharks' Girls

John Harkins
One of the Adults

Lowell Harris
A Jet

Ronnie Lee
A Shark

George Marcy
A Shark

Jack Murray
A Shark

Jay Norman
A Shark

Julie Oser
One of the Jets' Girls

Liane Plane
One of the Sharks' Girls

Nanette Rosen
One of the Jets' Girls

Lynn Ross
One of the Sharks' Girls

Jamie Sanchez
Bernardo's Friend

Noel Schwartz
A Shark

Elizabeth Taylor
One of the Sharks' Girls

Swings: Larry Roquemore and Marc Scott

Standby: Stephanie Augustine (Maria), Muriel Bentley (Anita) and Marlys Watters (Maria)

Understudies: Hank Brunjes (Riff), Erne Castaldo (Chino), Martin Charnin (Snowboy), Marilyn Cooper (Consuela), Grover Dale (Big Deal), Carole D'Andrea (Anybodys), Al De Sio (A-Rab, Baby John), Frank Green (Tony), Reri Grist (Rosalia), John Harkins (Doc, Schrank), Alan Johnson (Shark), George Marcy (Bernardo), Jack Murray (Krupke), Liane Plane (Anita), Lynn Ross (Consuela) and Noel Schwartz (Action)

1961 Film (via IMDB)

Directed by

Jerome Robbins

Robert Wise

Writing Credits  

Ernest Lehman ...(screenplay)

Arthur Laurents ...(book)

Jerome Robbins ...(play)

William Shakespeare ...(play) (uncredited)

Cast (in credits order) 

Natalie Wood ... Maria

Richard Beymer ... Tony

Russ Tamblyn ... Riff

Rita Moreno ... Anita

George Chakiris ... Bernardo

Simon Oakland ... Schrank

Ned Glass ... Doc

William Bramley ... Krupke

Tucker Smith ... Ice

Tony Mordente ... Action

David Winters ... A-rab

Eliot Feld ... Baby John

Bert Michaels ... Snowboy

David Bean ... Tiger

Robert Banas ... Joyboy

Anthony 'Scooter' Teague ... Big Deal (as Scooter Teague)

Harvey Evans ... Mouthpiece (as Harvey Hohnecker)

Tommy Abbott ... Gee-Tar

Susan Oakes ... Anybodys

Gina Trikonis ... Graziella

Carole D'Andrea ... Velma

Jose De Vega ... Chino

Jay Norman ... Pepe

Gus Trikonis ... Indio

Eddie Verso ... Juano

Jaime Rogers ... Loco

Larry Roquemore ... Rocco

Robert E. Thompson ... Luis (as Robert Thompson)

Nick Navarro ... Toro (as Nick Covacevich)

Rudy Del Campo ... Del Campo

Andre Tayir ... Chile

Yvonne Wilder ... Consuelo (as Yvonne Othon)

Suzie Kaye ... Rosalia

Joanne Miya ... Francisca

Rest of cast listed alphabetically:

John Astin ... Glad Hand (uncredited)

Francesca Bellini ... Debby, Snowboy's Girlfriend (uncredited)

Elaine Joyce ... Hotsie, Tiger's Girlfriend (uncredited)

Priscilla Lopez ... Child Extra (uncredited)

Marni Nixon ... Playback vocalist for Natalie Wood (uncredited)

Olivia Perez ... Margarita, Rocco's Girlfriend (uncredited)

Lou Ruggiero ... Police Officer #3 (uncredited)

Penny Santon ... Madam Lucia (uncredited)

Luci Stone ... Estella, Loco's Girlfriend (uncredited)

Pat Tribble ... Minnie, Baby John's Girlfriend (uncredited)

Gary Troy ... Dancer (uncredited)

Produced by Saul Chaplin ...associate producer

Walter Mirisch ...executive producer (uncredited)

Robert Wise ...producer (uncredited)

Music by

Leonard Bernstein

Irwin Kostal ...(uncredited)

Cinematography by

Daniel L. Fapp ...director of photography

Film Editing by

Thomas Stanford editor

Production Design by

Boris Leven ...(production designed by)

Set Decoration by

Victor A. Gangelin ...(as Victor Gangelin)

Costume Design by

Irene Sharaff ...(costume designed by)

Makeup Department

Emile LaVigne (as Emile La Vigne)

Alice Monte ...hairdresser

Production Management

Allen K. Wood ...production manager

Hubert Fröhlich ...production manager (uncredited)

Second Unit Director or Assistant Director

Robert E. Relyea ...assistant director

Jerome M. Siegel ...second assistant director

Ridgeway Callow ...assistant director (uncredited)

Art Department

Sam Gordon

Maurice Zuberano ...production artist (as M. Zuberano)

Leon Harris ...production illustrator (uncredited)

William Maldonado coordinator (uncredited)

Sound Department

Fred Lau ...sound

Gilbert D. Marchant ...sound editor

Murray Spivack ...sound

Vinton Vernon ...sound

Richard Gramaglia ...sound mixer (uncredited)

Fred Hynes ...sound recording supervisor (uncredited)

Gordon Sawyer ...sound supervisor (uncredited)

Visual Effects by

Saul Bass ...visual consultant

Linwood G. Dunn ...photographic effects (as Linwood Dunn)


Eli Bo Jack Blackfeather ...stunts (uncredited)

Camera and Electrical Department

Linwood G. Dunn ...title photographer (uncredited)

John Finger operator: title sequence (uncredited)

Ernst Haas ...still photographer (uncredited)

Jerome H. Klein ...electrician (uncredited)

Louis Kulsey ...dolly grip: title sequence (uncredited)

Tom May ...grip (uncredited)

Phil Stern ...still photographer (uncredited)

Costume and Wardrobe Department

Bert Henrikson ...wardrobe

Editorial Department 

Marshall M. Borden ...assistant editor

Music Department

Leonard Bernstein by

Richard Carruth editor

Saul Chaplin ...musical supervisor

Johnny Green conductor / musical supervisor

Irwin Kostal ...musical supervisor / orchestrator

Sid Ramin ...musical supervisor / orchestrator

Stephen Sondheim ...lyrics by

Robert Tucker ... vocal coach (as Bobby Tucker)

Betty Walberg ...musical assistant

Pete Candoli ...musician (uncredited)

Jack Dumont ...musician: saxophone (uncredited)

Walter A. Gest ...production music playback operator (uncredited)

Shelly Manne ...musician (uncredited)

Red Mitchell ...musician (uncredited)

Uan Rasey ...musician: trumpet soloist (uncredited)

Albert T. Viola ...musician (uncredited)

Other crew

Tommy Abbott assistant

Margaret Banks assistant

Saul Bass ...titles

Robert E. Griffith ...based upon the play produced on the stage by

Howard Jeffrey assistant

Tony Mordente assistant

Harold Prince ...based upon the play produced on the stage by (as Harold S. Prince)

Jerome Robbins ...choreography by / stage play: director / stage play: orchestrator

Stanley Scheuer ...script supervisor (as Stanley K. Scheuer)

Roger L. Stevens arrangement with

Hal Bell ...assistant choreographer (uncredited)

Jimmy Bryant ...singing voice: Tony (uncredited)

Kit Culkin ...dancer (uncredited)

John Flynn ...script supervisor (uncredited)

Gerald Freedman ...assistant: Mr. Robbins (uncredited)

Peter Gennaro (uncredited)

Maria Henley ...Shark dancer Teresita (uncredited)

Eliot Hyman ...production executive (uncredited)

Howard Jeffrey ...assistant choreographer: Mr. Robbins (uncredited)

Elaine Joyce ...dancer (uncredited)

George Lake ...assistant stage manager: stage production (uncredited)

Harold Mirisch ...production executive (uncredited)

Marvin Mirisch ...production executive (uncredited)

Howard Newman representative (uncredited)

Arthur Rubin ...assistant stage manager: stage production (uncredited)

Wallace Siebert ...assistant: Mr. Gennaro (uncredited)

Ray Stark ...production executive (uncredited)

Lee Theodore ...assistant choreographer (uncredited) / dancer (uncredited)

Roxanne Tunis ...dancer (uncredited)

Betty Wand ...singing voice: Anita - "A Boy Like That/I Have a Love" (uncredited)

1980 Broadway Revival


Debbie Allen
Bernardo's Girl

Jossie de Guzman
Bernardo's Sister

Ken Marshall
Riff's Friend

Cleve Asbury
A Jet

Brent Barrett
A Jet

John Bentley
One of the Adults

Harolyn Blackwell
One of the Sharks' Girls

Stephen Bogardus
Mouth Piece
A Jet

Yamil Borges
One of the Sharks' Girls

Mark Bove
A Jet

Nancy Louise Chismar
One of the Jets' Girls

Ray Contreras
Bernardo's Friend

Marlene Danielle
One of the Sharks' Girls

Gary-Michael Davies
A Shark

Michael De Lorenzo
A Shark

Mark Fotopoulos
A Jet

Michael Franks
A Shark

Charlene Gehm
One of the Jets' Girls

Heather Lea Gerdes
One of the Jets' Girls

Arch Johnson
One of the Adults

Reed Jones
Big Deal
A Jet

Brian Kaman
Baby John
A Jet

Amy Lester
One of the Sharks' Girls

Todd Lester
A Jet

James J. Mellon
The Leader, The Jets

Héctor Jaime Mercado
The Leader, The Sharks

Georganna Mills
One of the Jets' Girls

Mark Morales
A Shark

Michael Rivera
A Shark

Adrian Rosario
A Shark

Willie Rosario
A Shark

Sammy Smith
One of the Adults

Nancy Ticotin
One of the Sharks' Girls

Darryl Tribble
A Shark

Jake Turner
One of the Adults

Frankie Wade
One of the Jets' Girls

G. Russell Weilandich
A Jet

Missy Whitchurch
A Jet

Stephanie E. Williams
One of the Sharks' Girls

Swings: Nancy Butchko, Richard Caceres and Tim O'Keefe

Standby: Will Mead (Action, Riff)

Understudies: Cleve Asbury (Big Deal, Riff), John Bentley (Doc, Schrank), Harolyn Blackwell (Maria), Stephen Bogardus (Tony), Richard Caceres (Snowboy), Nancy Louise Chismar (Anybodys), Marlene Danielle (Anita, Rosalia), Mark Fotopoulos (A-Rab), Reed Jones (Action, Gladhand), Mark Morales (Chino), Tim O'Keefe (Baby John, Mouth Piece, Snowboy), Michael Rivera (Bernardo), Jake Turner (Krupke), Frankie Wade (Graziella) and Chris Wheeler (Maria)

Production Staff

Theatre Owned / Operated by Minskoff Organization and James M. Nederlander

Produced by Gladys Rackmil, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and James M. Nederlander; Produced in association with Zev Bufman; Associate Producer: Allan Tessler, Steven Jacobson and Stewart F. Lane

Book by Arthur Laurents; Music by Leonard Bernstein; Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim; Musical Director: John DeMain and Donald Jennings; Music orchestrated by Leonard Bernstein, Sid Ramin and Irwin Kostal; Assistant Musical Dir.: Jim Stenborg

Conceived by Jerome Robbins; Directed by Jerome Robbins; Choreographed by Jerome Robbins; Book Co-Directed by Gerald Freedman; Co - Choreographer: Peter Gennaro

Scenic Design by Oliver Smith; Costume Design by Irene Sharaff; Lighting Design by Jean Rosenthal; Sound Design by Jack Mann; Lighting Executed by Nananne Porcher

Executive Producer: Ruth Mitchell; General Manager: Theatre Now, Inc.; Company Manager: Michael Lonergan

Production Stage Manager: Patrick Horrigan; Stage Manager: Brenna Krupa; Assistant Stage Mgr: Arlene Grayson; Scenery Executed by Theatre Techniques, Inc.

Music Contractor: Paul Gemignani

NOI directing intern: Stephen Helper

Choreography reproduced with the assistance of Tom Abbott and Lee Becker Theodore; General Press Representative: Hunt / Pucci Associates; Casting: T.N.I. Casting, Julie Hughes and Barry Moss; Dance Captain: Richard Caceres; Costumes Executed by Barbara Matera Ltd.; Advertising: Ash / LeDonne and Lawrence Weiner and Associates; Photographer: Roger Greenawalt and Martha Swope; Press Representative: Clarence Allsopp and James Sapp


George Akram
The Leader, The Sharks

Matt Cavenaugh
Riff's Friend(Feb 23, 2009 - Dec 13, 2009)

Cody Green
The Leader, The Jets(Feb 23, 2009 - Aug 02, 2009)

Karen Olivo
Bernardo's Girl(Feb 23, 2009 - May 08, 2010)

Josefina Scaglione
Bernardo's Sister(Feb 23, 2009 - Sep 19, 2010)

Nicholas Barasch
A JetAlternate

Steve Bassett
Lt. Schrank
One of the Adults

Kyle Brenn
Wed. & Sat. matineesKiddo
A JetAlternate

Joshua Buscher
A Jet

Isaac Calpito
A Shark

Mike Cannon
A Jet

Peter John Chursin
A Shark

Kyle Coffman
A Jet

Lindsay Dunn
One of the Jets' Girls

Yurel Echezarreta
A Shark

Joey Haro
Bernardo's Friend

Eric Hatch
Big Deal
A Jet

Manuel Herrera
A Shark

Curtis Holbrook
A Jet

Marina Lazzaretto
One of the Sharks' Girls

Yanira Marin
One of the Sharks' Girls

Michael Mastro
One of the Adults

Mileyka Mateo
One of the Sharks' Girls

Kaitlin Mesh
One of the Jets' Girls

Kat Nejat
One of the Sharks' Girls

Pamela Otterson
One of the Jets' Girls

Danielle Polanco
One of the Sharks' Girls

Sam Rogers
A Jet

Michael Rosen
A Shark

Amy Ryerson
One of the Jets' Girls

Jennifer Sanchez
One of the Sharks' Girls

Manuel Santos
A Shark

Lee Sellars
One of the Adults

Tro Shaw
A Jet

Ryan Steele
Baby John
A Jet

Tanairi Sade Vazquez
One of the Sharks' Girls

Greg Vinkler
One of the Adults

Swings: Haley Carlucci, Madeline Cintron, John Arthur Greene, Chase Madigan, Angelina Mullins, Christian Elan Ortiz and Michaeljon Slinger

Standby: Matthew Hydzik (Tony) and Mark Zimmerman (Doc, Gladhand, Krupke, Lt. Schrank)

Understudies: Joshua Buscher (Big Deal), Mike Cannon (Riff, Tony), Haley Carlucci (Fernanda, Maria, Rosalia), Lindsay Dunn (Graziella), John Arthur Greene (Action, Diesel, Riff), Eric Hatch (Action), Manuel Herrera (Bernardo), Chase Madigan (A-Rab, Baby John, Snowboy), Yanira Marin (Anita, Consuela, Fernanda), Michael Mastro (Doc, Krupke, Lt. Schrank), Kaitlin Mesh (Anybodys), Kat Nejat (Anita, Maria), Pamela Otterson (Anybodys), Sam Rogers (A-Rab, Baby John, Big Deal), Michael Rosen (Chino), Amy Ryerson (Graziella), Manuel Santos (Bernardo, Chino), Lee Sellars (Gladhand), Michaeljon Slinger (Diesel, Gladhand, Snowboy) and Tanairi Sade Vazquez (Consuela)

Production Staff

Theatre Owned / Operated by Stewart F. Lane, James M. Nederlander and James L. Nederlander

Produced by Kevin McCollum, James L. Nederlander, Jeffrey Seller, Terry Allen Kramer, Sander Jacobs, Roy Furman/Jill Furman Willis, Freddy DeMann, Robyn Goodman/Walt Grossman, Hal Luftig, Roy Miller, The Weinstein Company and Broadway Across America; Associate Producer: LAMS Productions

Entire Original Production Directed and Choreographed by Jerome Robbins; Original Co-Choreographer: Peter Gennaro

Book by Arthur Laurents; Music by Leonard Bernstein; Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim; Translations: Lin-Manuel Miranda; Music orchestrated by Leonard Bernstein, Sid Ramin and Irwin Kostal; Musical Director: Patrick Vaccariello

Directed by Arthur Laurents; Choreography Reproduced by Joey McKneely; Associate Director: David Saint; Associate Choreographer: Lori Werner; Based on a conception of Jerome Robbins

Scenic Design by James Youmans; Costume Design by David C. Woolard; Lighting Design by Howell Binkley; Sound Design by Dan Moses Schreier; Hair and Wig Design by Mark Adam Rampmeyer; Make-Up Design by Angelina Avallone; Associate Scenic Design: Jerome Martin; Assistant Costume Design: Robert J. Martin, Daryl A. Stone and Maria Zamansky; Associate Lighting Design: Ryan O'Gara; Assistant Lighting Design: Carrie J. Wood; Associate Sound Design: David Bullard; Moving Light Programmer: David Arch

General Manager: The Charlotte Wilcox Company; Company Manager: James Lawson; Assistant Co. Mgr: Erica Ezold

Production Stage Manager: Joshua Halperin; Technical Supervisor: Brian Lynch; Assistant Stage Mgr: Jason Brouillard

Conducted by Patrick Vaccariello; Associate Conductor: Maggie Torre; Musical Coordinator: Michael Keller; Musical Supervisor: Patrick Vaccariello; Concertmaster: Martin Agee; Violin: Paul Woodiel, Robert Shaw, Victoria Paterson, Fritz Krakowski, Dana Ianculovici and Philip Payton; Cello: Peter Prosser, Vivian Israel, Diane Barere and Jennifer Lang; Bass: Bill Sloat; Reed 1: Lawrence Feldman; Reed 2: Lino Gomez; Reed 3: Dan Willis; Reed 4: Adam Kolker; Reed 5: Gilbert Dejean; Lead Trumpet: John Chudoba; Trumpet: Trevor Neumann and Matthew Peterson; Trombone: Tim Albright; Bass Trombone: Jeff Nelson; French Horn: Chris Komer and Theresa MacDonnell; Piano: Maggie Torre; Keyboard: Jim Laev; Drums: Eric Poland; Percussion: Dan McMillan and Pablo Rieppi; Keyboard Programmer: Randy Cohen

Casting: Stuart Howard Associates, Stuart Howard, Amy Schecter and Paul Hardt; Marketing: Scott A. Moore; General Press Representative: Barlow-Hartman Public Relations; Press Representative: Matt Shea; Advertising: SPOTCo, Inc.; Dance Captain: Marina Lazzaretto; Assistant Dance Captain: Michaeljon Slinger; Fight direction by Ron Piretti; Photographer: Joan Marcus

2009 Broadway Revival

Fact Sheet

Did you know that...

Guide and Commentary by Jack Gottlieb

  • Irving Shulman wrote the novelization of Arthur Laurents’ "book" in which he provided family names for the characters: Tony (Anton) Wyzek, Maria (and Bernardo) Nunez, Riff Lorton, Chino Martin, Anita Palacio, and (now it can be told) Glad Hand was "christened" Murray Benowitz!
  • West Side Story has been translated into Japanese, Serbo-Croatian, Hungarian (in two versions), Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, German, French, Russian, and not so surprisingly, into Spanish, twice?
  • Marilyn Horne was the voice of Dorothy Dandridge on the film soundtrack of the Bizet-Oscar Hammerstein Carmen Jones, and also on the soundtrack for the movie of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The Flower Drum Song ? And also on the 1985 West Side Story recording!
  • The music for One Hand, One Heart was originally earmarked for Bernstein’s Candide, with a whole other set of lyrics? And that it has become almost as popular as Oh, Promise Me in wedding ceremonies? Or that the music in the second movement of Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms, set to war-like words form Psalm 2, was a rejected Jets’ war-song called Mix?
  • West Side Story was not the only musical based on Romeo and Juliet?
  • Not one of the Oscars won by West Side Story included the composer, who was deemed "ineligible" since his music was not written for the film? He did, however, expand the Prologue.
  • Although in the stage version of Cool is sung by Riff, on the screen it was delivered by a newly invented character named Ice - - get it?
  • Both the movie and original Broadway cast albums of West Side Story earned Gold Record status, sales of over one million??
  • Ramin and Kostal also helped Bernstein prepare the Symphonic Dances From West Side Story, and that they performed the same valued function for the composer's opera, A Quiet Place ?
  • Although Bernstein’s music has sometimes been criticized as sounding Aaron Copland-ish, the opening of Copland’s Music for a Great City (which was written later, 1964) resembles the Prologue of West Side Story?

© Copyright 2001 by Jack Gottlieb
All rights reserved. May not be used without permission.

Leonard Bernstein’s 1985 Recording of His Landmark Theater Work

Guide and Commentary by Jack Gottlieb

Story Sources

It is widely known that West Side Story (WSS) is based directly on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet (R&J). Far less well known is the fact that Shakespeare based his play (1594) on other material, particularly a narrative poem by Arthur Brooke entitled The Tragicall Historye of Romeus and Juliet (1562).

The theme of two lovers thwarted by circumstances beyond their control, however, had long before been established in Western legend: Troilus and Cressida, Tristan and Isolde, to name only two such pairs. In more recent times, American folklore had assimilated the myth into the feud between the Hatfields and McCoys.

Brooke’s description of R&J as an "vnfortunate coople" displays a puritanical streak:

" . . . louers, thrilling themselves to vnhonest desire, neglecting the authoritie and aduise of parents and frendes."

Shakespeare transcended the question of morality, though he borrowed freely from the earlier poem, and in fact, he replicated Brooke’s actual words in at least three instances. But Brooke pales by comparison. Shakespeare rapturously expanded the soliloquies, and fashioned new personages endowing them with nobility.

Although there are many borrowings of plot and content from R&J to WSS, Arthur Laurents, author of the book for the musical, did not verbally borrow from Shakespeare. But just as Shakespeare transformed Brook’s:

"Drunken gossypes, superstitious friers, vnchastitie, the shame of stolne contractes hastyng to more vnhappye deathe,"

So Laurents replaces the second half of Shakespeare’s play, which he tells us:

"rests on Juliet’s swallowing a magic potion, a device that would not be swallowed in a modern play."

He continues:

"In the book (why are the spoken words for a musical show called this?) . . . the dialogue is my translation of adolescent street talk into theater: it may sound real, but it isn’t."

That he succeeded, and did so brilliantly, is attested to by his companion-in-arms Alan Jay Lerner:

"Arthur Laurent’s book, with its moving re-telling of the Romeo and Juliet tale. . . is a triumph of style and model of its genre. As a fellow tradesman, I was filled with the deepest admiration."

Interestingly, in two of his post-WSS screen plays, Laurents subliminally returns to the R&J theme. In The Turning Point (featuring Mikhail Baryshnikov and Leslie Browne in the Pas de Deux from Prokofiev’s balletic treatment of R&J) he explores the conflict between marriage and career. In The Way We Were, the conflict is between political activism (embodied by the Jewish girl, portrayed by Barbra Streisand) and social passivity (her gentile lover, Robert Redford)

Was this Way We Were in some way a recall of the original idea for WSS? Jerome Robbins had at first envisioned Juliet as a Jewish girl and Romeo as an Italian Catholic. The action, set during the Easter-Passover season, was to have occurred on the Lower East Side of New York City. Hence the title might have been EAST Side Story. (Another working title was Gangway!) That was in 1949. Six years later, Laurents and Leonard Bernstein were working (independently) in Hollywood, where they conferred on the aborted project. The newspapers were filled with reports of street riots by Chicano Americans in Los Angeles. Those headlines turned the trick, triggering the imaginations of the collaborators. The locale swiftly shifted to New York’s West Side, and in 1957 WSS exploded onto the American State. In the decades that have passed, WSS has become a contemporary classic.

The Operatic Trap

Soon after its premiere, Bernstein wrote about the lengthy gestation between the show’s conception and birth:

"All the peering and agony and postponement and re-re-rewriting turn out to have been worth it."

Part of that agony was the decision

"not to cast ‘singers’: anything that sounded more professional would inevitably sound more experienced, and then the ‘kid’ quality would be gone."

How can this statement be reconciled with his 1985 recording? Critic David Stearns, among others, addresses the issue of Opera "versus" Broadway. Actually, the problem is less an issue in recorded sound than in live sound. If we did not know it were Kiri TeKanawa, "International Opera Star," on the recording, would the issue have been raised?

But nevertheless, there are concerns about the forms, if not the singers. Music history has demonstrated over and over that one man’s dissonance later becomes another’s consonance. That which seemed impossible -- even to its authors -- in 1957, has now become acceptable. It may be box office poison to describe a "musical" as "opera"; but operatic tendrils have by now become so intertwined with Broadway techniques that we have become the beneficiaries of a new music theater hybrid.

Still, in 1949, Bernstein voiced apprehension of

"making a musical that tells a tragic story in musical comedy terms . . . never falling into the ‘operatic’ trap"

That trap must be the vise (as well as the vice) of vocal pyrotechnics for its own sake, without moving the story forward.

Bernstein does avoid that trap in WSS. For example, one of the most operatic moments is the duet between Anita and Maria: A Boy Like That/I Have a Love. This denouement is, in the words of Stearns: "Anita’s fateful change of loyalties from which the rest of the drama unfolds. " Bernstein evolves one song out of the other through a kind of musical legerdemain. Thus when Anita fulminates against the killings, we hear what will turn into Maria’s eloquence, using precisely the same pitches and almost the same rhythm. The seed has grown to tower over the ground in which it was planted.

While there is hope in WSS, there also is despair, and this too is reflected, in musical terms. Throughout the entire score the interval of the tritone is prominently displayed. (Theorists from the past have nicknamed the tritone Diabolus in musica (Devil in music"). It was considered the most "dangerous" interval. Its unstable, rootless quality (C, for example, to F# consists of three whole-steps, hence: tritone) was the perfect musical distillation of the unstable relationship between Tony and Maria, and for the rootlessness, and the resulting ruthlessness, of the Jet and Shark gangs.



Bernstein once said the show could not "depend on stars, being about kids."

Hundreds of young hopefuls auditioned for the original production. Of the forty ‘kids’ who landed the jobs - - for most, their Broadway debut - - many went on to a wide variety of show business (or related) activities. Perhaps not all their pathways were to greater glory, but without WSS their careers would probably have taken considerably longer to blossom. Furthermore, some of them continued to maintain relationships with their WSS colleagues on a personal and/or professional basis.

The most astonishing career to be launched from the WSS pad was that of its lyricist, Stephen Sondheim, considered by many to be the most significant composer-lyricist of our time. If there is an indigenous American operatic style of today, Sondheim must be regarded as its standard-bearer. The operatic innovations introduced by the WSS creative quartet: broader song dimensions, simultaneities in complex counterpoint, etc. became grist to the Sondheim mill. But, strangely, not one Sondheim show has ever advanced the choreographic inventiveness of Jerome Robbins in WSS. (Has any show?) Unlike Bernstein, Sondheim is not a composer for the dance.

Symphonic Dances Form West Side Story was premiered by the New York Philharmonic on February 13, 1961, but the conductor was Lukas Foss. Bernstein was named Music Director of the Philharmonic one year after the opening of WSS, and although he later performed and recorded the Dances with the orchestra, he never, prior to the 1985 recording, conducted a performance of the show. (He was in the pit to conduct the so-called Overture - - a compilation of tunes not made by him - -for one of the early Broadway revivals). But why should someone whose career has been so diversified concentrate on one all-consuming project, a Broadway run? Bernstein never conducted a live theater performance of his Candide, Wonderful Town or Mass, either.

His recording of On The Town, made long after its premiere with, among others, three of the original cast members, is the first show album ever to be put onto disc by its composer. But one historical first has yet to occur in the annals of recorded Broadway musicals: a full original cast album conducted by its composer.


The Movie


The Academy Award for Best Picture of 1961 went to the movie version of WSS. It earned a total of ten Oscars. Although Bernstein did not suffer the indignity of the mayhem perpetrated on his score in the movie of On The Town, the movie of WSS did make some minor alterations. I Feel Pretty was transferred to an earlier scene, the bridal shop. The location of Gee, Officer Krupke was interchanged with Cool. Sondheim also wrote new lyrics for America, performed by all the Sharks and their girls (in the stage version it is presented by four girls only).

These changes were judged to be necessary to sustain an on-rushing sense of doom. After all, the movie was not interrupted by an intermission during which an audience could recover form the devastation wrought by the danced Rumble. On stage, the bubbly I Feel Pretty, at the beginning of Act II, was a kind of extension of intermission babble. Good theater, but not good movie.

The Dubbers


The singing voices of Richard Beymer (Tony, in the movie) was that of Jim Bryant, a Hollywood jazz and commercial arranger and bass fiddler, chosen because his singing timbre matched Beymer’s spoken sound. Similarly, Betty Wand, a mezzo-soprano, was hired to do some, but not all, of Rita (Anita) Moreno’s singing. Wand later sued to get a percentage of the movie-album sales, a dispute settled out-of-court. But the most convoluted dubbing problems were those for the voice of Natalie Wood (Maria).

Marni Nixon was employed on a day-to-day basis (no contract was signed) to do only the high or sustained notes that Wood’s less disciplined voice could not manage. And, indeed, the songs were recorded in that manner, with Wood being continually told how "wonderful" she was. While this was going on, Nixon was being told that she would do the full soundtrack, which was hard to believe under the circumstances. But this delicate and deliberate game of musical pawns was played to ensure there would be not clash between star and studio until Wood’s visuals had been completely filmed. When she was finally "in the can," Wood was informed that Nixon had been elected. Wood’s reaction was understandable anger. (later on when she filmed her role in Gypsy, no substitutions were made for her singing voice.)

Nixon’s job then became much more complicated than her dubbing of Deborah Kerr in the filming of The King and I. There, everything had been carefully worked out in rehearsal, with Nixon physically next to Kerr at all music rehearsals. But since Wood had already been filled with musical inaccuracies, Nixon had to compensate for them. On long shots there was no problem, but on close-ups she had to hedge it one way or another. (In fact, Nixon even dubbed Wood’s speaking voice at the very end: "Don’t you touch him!" Te adoro, Anton.")

Due to the web of deception, Nixon felt she deserved a cut of the movie-album royalties. Neither the movie or the record producers would bow to her demands. Bernstein broke the stalemate by volunteering a percentage of his income, a gesture of loyalty-royalty since Nixon had been a performer-colleague of his at New York Philharmonic concerts. (Marni Nixon can be heard singing on the NY Philharmonic's Bernstein Live! CD set.)

© Copyright 2001 by Jack Gottlieb
All rights reserved. May not be used without permission.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How does West Side Story compare to Romeo & Juliet?
2. Where does it take place?
3. When does it take place?
4. What's the basic plot?
5. Who are the main characters and who played them in the movie?
6. Where are the gangs from?
7. Who wrote West Side Story?
8. When was West Side Story written?
9. Where was West Side Story first performed?
10. How are the movie and the stage version different?
11. What awards has West Side Story received?
12. What is the instrumentation for West Side Story?
13. How do I get started on researching more information about West Side Story?
14. How can I find pictures from West Side Story?
15. Can you suggest some topics for an essay about West Side Story?

1. How does West Side Story compare to Romeo & Juliet?

WSS is a modern day adaptation of the timeless classic by William Shakespeare. They both involve two young people that fall in love, but are kept apart by their friends/families. This causes grave consequences.

For more information, please read Jack Gottleib's West Side Story fact sheet.

2. Where does it take place?

West Side Story takes place on the west side of Manhattan, New York City. Most of the scenes take place in the streets, playground, on the roof, at Doc's or under the highway.


3. When does it take place?

West Side Story is set in the mid 1950's, when many Puerto Ricans moved to NYC.


From the Musical Theatre International website:

Full Synopsis


The opening is a carefully choreographed, half-danced/half-mimed ballet of sorts. It shows the growing tensions between the Sharks, a Puerto Rican gang, and the Jets, a gang made up of "American" boys. An incident between the Jets and Shark leader, Bernardo, escalates into an all out fight between the two gangs. Officers Schrank and Krupke arrive to break up the fight.

Act One

Detective Schrank, the senior cop on the beat, tries to get the Jets to tell him which Puerto Ricans are starting trouble in the neighborhood, as he claims he is on their side. The Jets, however, are not stool pigeons and won't tell him anything. Frustrated, Schrank threatens to beat the crap out of the Jets unless they make nice. When the police leave, the Jets bemoan the Sharks coming onto their turf. They decide that they need to have one big rumble to settle the matter once and for all – even if winning requires fighting with knives and guns. Riff plans to have a war council with Bernardo to decide on weapons. Action wants to be his second, but Riff says that Tony is always his second. The other boys complain that Tony hasn't been around for a month, but Riff doesn't care; once you're a Jet, you're a Jet for life ("Jet Song").

Riff goes to see Tony, who is now working at Doc's drugstore. Riff presses him to come to the school dance for the war council, but Tony resists; he's lost the thrill of being a Jet. He explains that, every night for a month, he's had a strange feeling that something important is just around the corner. Nevertheless, Riff convinces Tony to come to the dance. Riff leaves Tony to wonder about this strange feeling that he's been having ("Something's Coming").

In a bridal shop, Anita remakes Maria's communion dress into a party dress. They are both Puerto Rican. Anita is knowing, sexual and sharp. Maria is excited, enthusiastic and childlike, but also growing into an adult. Maria complains that the dress is too young-looking, but Anita explains that Bernardo, her boyfriend and Maria's brother, made her promise not to make the dress too short. It turns out that the dress is for the dance, which Maria is attending with Chino, whom she is expected to marry, despite the fact that she does not have any feelings for him.

At the dance in the local gym, the group is divided: Jets and their girls on one side and Sharks and their girls on the othe. Riff and his lieutenants move to challenge Bernardo and his lieutenants, but they are interrupted by Glad Hand, the chaperone who is overseeing the dance, and Officer Krupke. The two initiate some dances to get the kids to dance together, across the gang lines. In the promenade leading up to the dance, though, the girls and boys end up facing each other at random, Jet girls across from Shark boys and vice versa. Bernardo reaches across the Jet girl in front of him to take Anita's hand, and Riff does the same with his girlfriend, Velma. Everyone dances with their own group as Tony enters ("Mambo"). During the dance, Maria and Tony spot each other. There is an instant connection. Bernardo interrupts them, telling Tony to stay away from his sister and asking Chino to take her home. Riff and Bernardo agree to meet at Doc's in half an hour for the war council. As everyone else disappears, Tony is overcome with the feeling of having met the most beautiful girl ever ("Maria").

Later, Tony finds the fire escape outside of Maria's apartment and calls up to her. She appears in the window, but is nervous that they will get caught. Her parents call her inside, but she stays. She and Tony profess their love to each other ("Tonight"). He agrees to meet her at the bridal shop the next day. Bernardo calls Maria inside. Anita admonishes him, saying that Maria already has a mother and father to take care of her. Bernardo insists that they, like Maria, don't understand this country. Bernardo, Anita, Chino and their friends discuss the unfairness of America – they are treated like foreigners, while "Polacks" like Tony are treated like real Americans, paid twice as much for their jobs. Anita tries to lure Bernardo inside and away from the war council, but he refuses. As the boys leave for the council, one of Anita's friends, Rosalia, claims to be homesick for Puerto Rico. Anita scoffs at this. While Rosalia expounds on the beauties of the country, Anita responds with why she prefers her new home ("America").

At the drugstore, the Jets wait for the Sharks. discussing what weapons they might have to use. Doc is upset that the boys are planning to fight at all. Anybodys, a tomboy who is trying to join the Jets, asks Riff if she can participate in the rumble, but he says no. Doc doesn't understand why the boys are making trouble for the Puerto Ricans, and the boys respond that the Sharks make trouble for them. Doc calls them hoodlums and Action and A-rab get very upset. Riff tells them that they have to save their steam for the rumble and keep cool, rather than freaking out ("Cool").

Bernardo arrives at the drugstore and he and Riff begin laying out the terms of the rumble. Tony arrives and convinces them all to agree to a fair fight – just skin, no weapons. The Sharks' best man fights the Jets' best man; Bernardo agrees, thinking that means he will get to fight Tony, but the Jets say they get to pick their fighter. Schrank arrives and breaks up the council. He tells the Puerto Ricans to get out. Bernardo and his gang exit. Schrank tries to get the Jets to reveal the location of the rumble and becomes increasingly frustrated when they refuse. He insults them and leaves. As Tony and Doc close up the shop, Tony reveals that he's in love with a Puerto Rican. Doc is worried.

The next day at the bridal shop, Maria tells Anita that she can leave, that Maria will clean up. Anita is about to go when Tony arrives. She suddenly understands and promises not to tell on them. When she leaves, Tony tells Maria that the rumble will be a fair fight, but even that's no acceptable for her, so she asks him to go to the rumble and stop it. He agrees. He'll do anything for her. They fantasize about being together and getting married ("One Hand, One Heart"). Later, the members of the ensemble wait expectantly for the fight, all for different reasons ("Tonight Quintet").

At the rumble, Diesel and Bernardo prepare to fight, with Chino and Riff as their seconds. Tony enters and tries to break up the fight, but provokes Bernardo against him instead. Bernardo calls Tony a chicken for not fighting him. Riff punches Bernardo and the fight escalates quickly until Riff and Bernardo pull out knives. Bernardo kills Riff and, in response, Tony kills Bernardo, instantly horrified by what he's done. The police arrive as everyone scatters; Anybodys pulls Tony away just in time.

Act Two

In Maria's apartment, she gushes to her friends about how it is her wedding night and she is so excited ("I Feel Pretty"). Chino interrupts her reverie to tell her that Tony has killed Bernardo. She refuses to believe him, but when Tony arrives on her fire escape, he confesses. He offers to turn himself in, but she begs him to stay with her. She says that, although they are together, everyone is against them. Tony says they'll find a place where they can be together ("Somewhere").

In a back alley, the Jets regroup in shock. No one has seen Tony. Officer Krupke comes by, threatening to take them to the station house. The boys chase him away for the moment and then release some tension by play-acting the scenario of what would happen if Krupke actually did take them to the station house ("Gee, Officer Krupke"). Anybodys shows up with information about Tony and the fact that Chino is looking for him. She uses this information to get the boys to treat her like one of the gang. The Jets agree that they need to find Tony and warn him about Chino.

Meanwhile, Anita comes into Maria's room and finds her with Tony. Tony and Maria are planning to run away. Tony knows that Doc will give him money, so he goes to the drugstore and tells Maria to meet him there. She agrees. When he leaves, Anita explodes at her for loving the boy who killed her brother. Maria acknowledges that it's not smart, but she can't help it ("A Boy Like That / I Have a Love"). Anita tells Maria that Chino has a gun and is looking for Tony. Schrank arrives and detains Maria for questioning. Maria covertly asks Anita to go to Doc's and tell Tony that she has been delayed. Reluctantly, Anita agrees.

The Jets arrive at Doc's, learning that Tony and Doc are in the basement. Anita arrives and asks to speak to Doc. The Jets, recognizing her as Bernardo's girl and thinking that she is there to betray Tony to Chino, won't let her go down to the basement to talk to Doc. Instead, they harass and attack her. Doc arrives to find them ganging up on her; he breaks it up, but Anita, disgusted and hurt, lies to Doc and tells him to relay a message to Tony: Chino has shot Maria, and he will never see her again.

When Doc returns to Tony in the basement, he delivers Anita's message. Tony is distraught and heartbroken. He runs out into the streets and calls Chino to come for him. Anybodys tries to stop him, but Tony doesn't care. He yells to Chino that he should come out and shoot him, too. Maria appears in the street – much to Tony's surprise – and they run towards each other. In that moment, Chino steps out of the shadows and shoots Tony, who falls into Maria's arms, gravely wounded.

The Jets, Sharks and Doc appear on the street. Maria picks up the gun and points it all of them, asking Chino if there are enough bullets to kill all of them and herself, as well. The depths of her sadness and anger move everyone as she breaks down over Tony's body. Officers Krupke and Schrank arrive. They stand with Doc, watching as two boys from each gang pick up Tony's body and form a processional. The rest follow the processional, with Baby John picking up Maria's shawl, giving it to her and helping her up. As Maria follows the others, the adults continue to bear silent witness ("Finale").

4. What's the basic plot?

  • Riff, leader of the Jets
  • Bernardo, leader of the Sharks
  • Maria, Bernardo's little sister
  • Tony, a founder of the Jets
  • Doc, owner of Doc's store/Tony's boss
  • Anita, Bernardo's girlfriend
  • Ice, one of the toughest Jets
  • Lt. Shrank, police officer
  • Officer Krupke, police officer

To find out who played each character, visit the WSS Archives Major Productions page.

5. Who are the main characters and who played them in the movie and original Broadway version?

The Jets are from Manhattan. They have ruled their "turf" for years, after defeating the Emeralds. The Sharks are from Puerto Rico. They have just recently come to NY, and want a "turf" of their own.

6. Where are the gangs from?

West Side Story is based on a conception by Jerome Robbins.

Book by Arthur Laurents
Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Music by Leonard Bernstein
Entire Original Production Directed and Choreographed by Jerome Robbins
Orchestrations by Leonard Bernstein with Sid Ramin and Irwin Kostal

Film Version:
Directed by: Robert Wise & Jerome Robbins
Screenplay: Ernest Lehman
Choreography: Jerome Robbins

7. Who wrote West Side Story?

Jerome Robbins' proposed the idea for writing a musical based on Romeo and Juliet to Leonard Bernstein in January of 1949 (working title: East Side Story, set in the slums at the coincidence of Easter-Passover celebrations). In August of 1955, a meeting with Arthur Laurents produced another idea -- two teen-age gangs as the warring factions, one of them newly-arrived Puerto Ricans, the other self-styled "Americans." In November, 1955 Stephen Sondheim joined the project as lyricist. A year and a half later, rehearsals began for the Broadway premiere of West Side Story.

For more about the development of WSS, please read The Growth of an Idea by Arthur Laurents, New York Herald Tribune, 8/4/57.

8. When was West Side Story written?

The stage version of West Side Story opened in previews/tryouts on August 20, 1957 in Washington D.C. Following this and another preview engagement in Philadelphia, the musical opened on Broadway at the Winter Garden Theater, September 26, 1957.

The film version was released on October 18, 1961

9. Where was West Side Story first performed?

While the movie version of West Side Story is among the most faithful of Hollywood adaptations, a number of changes were made in translating the work to film, some to suit the medium, others to suit the audience sensibilities, and one or two so-called artistic choices. Here are some examples.

Setting. While it seems only natural now, the idea of filming on actual city streets took some time in forming. The original stage version was performed with abstract settings, minimal in the extreme.

Score. The music of West Side Story was carefully re-worked for the film. The Overture includes the song "Maria," changed from "Somewhere" in the stage version. (The overture is often eliminated in the stage productions.) Music was added extending "The Prologue", and so the actual dancing of the Jets evolves slowly from other physical movement such as the basketball shots. (On stage, the dancing begins almost immediately.) The change most often discussed and debated is the switching of "Gee, Officer Krupke" and "Cool". Apparently a song as jolly as Krupke was considered incompatible to the mood created by the rumble, so this song, as well as the merry "I Feel Pretty" were both moved up to happier times before the rumble. "Cool" was placed in the slot following the rumble, with great effect. On stage, "America" is a light-hearted number sung by Anita and the Shark girls. On film, new lyrics were added to bring in the Shark boys and the bitter and sardonic view of those boys allow them into the story somewhat more than their stage counterparts. The order of songs is switched here also; on stage "Maria" and "Tonight" are consecutive, followed by "America", while in the film the production number comes between the two love songs. The "Dance at the Gym" was extended as well, mostly to accommodate the acrobatics of Russ Tamblyn. The duet "A Boy Like That / I Have a Love" was shortened for the film version, and "One Hand One Heart" is slightly shorter as well. The stage play contains a full-cast ballet sequence, "Somewhere," which was eliminated in the film. Some of the action of the final sequence-the members of both gangs walking away from Tony's body-repeat similar action from the ballet, and the same music is used.

Character. The changes noted above brought about the introduction of a new character: Ice was created to provide a solid successor to Riff for the later part of the film. This character does not appear on stage. Other minor details, such as Consuelo's decision to go blond (and her subsequent decision to go back) and the light-headedness of Rosalia were sacrificed in the changes. Madame Lucia, the proprietress of the bridal shop, is not a character in the stage version. For reasons unknown, Velma and Graziella have switched partners: In the playscript Velma is paired off with Riff.

Dialogue. Much of the original dialogue remains in the film version. Some lines were added for character and story development. The most noticeable changes were caused by an effort to clean up what might have been considered objectionable words and ideas, used on stage in 1957 but still not acceptable for films in 1961.

10. How are the movie and the stage version different?

ANTOINETTE PERRY AWARDS (for the original Broadway production)

  • Scenic Design - Oliver Smith
  • Choreography - Jerome Robbins

Also nominated:
Carol Lawrence, Best Actress in a Supporting Role in a Musical
Best Conductor/Musical Director, Max Goberman
Best Costume Design, Irene Sharaff


  • Best Picture West Side Story


  • Best Picture, West Side Story
  • Best Supporting Actor, George Chakiris
  • Best Supporting Actress, Rita Moreno
  • Best Direction, Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins
  • Best Cinematography, Color, Daniel L. Fapp
  • Best Art Direction, Color, Boris Leven (Art Direction), Victor Gangelin (Set Decoration)
  • Best Sound, Fred Hynes, Gordon Sawyer
  • Best Scoring of a Musical, Saul Chaplin, Johnny Green, Sid Ramin, Irwin Kostal
  • Best Editing, Thomas Stanford
  • Best Costumes, Color, Irene Sharaff
  • Special Award, Jerome Robbins for his brilliant achievement in the art of choreography

Also nominated:
Best Screenplay, Ernest Lehman


  • Best Soundtrack - West Side Story, Johnny Green, Saul Chaplin, Sid Ramin, Irwin Kostal

(That same year, Stan Kenton was awarded a Grammy for Best Jazz Performance, Stan Kenton's West Side Story)

Writers Guild of America

  • Best Written Musical, Ernest Lehman (for the adapted screenplay, 1962)

New York Film Critics Circle Award

  • West Side Story, Best Film

Laurel Awards

  • Cinematography, Color, Daniel L. Fapp
  • Female Supporting Performance, Rita Moreno
  • Best Musical

Golden Globes (1962)

  • Best Motion Picture - Musical
  • Best Supporting Actor, George Chakiris
  • Best Supporting Actreess, Rita Moreno

Directors Guild of America

  • Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures, Jerome Robbins, Robert Wise and Robert E. Relyea (assistant director)

11. What awards has West Side Story received?

Reed I: Piccolo, Flute, Alto Saxophone, Clarinet in B?, Bass Clarinet
Reed II: Clarinet in E?, Clarinet in B?, Bass Clarinet
Reed III: Piccolo, Flute, Oboe, English Horn, Tenor Saxophone, Baritone Saxophone, Clarinet in B?, Bass Clarinet
Reed IV: Piccolo, Flute, Soprano Saxophone, Bass Saxophone, Clarinet in B?, Bass Clarinet
Reed V: Bassoon

2 Horns in F
3 Trumpets in B? (2nd doubling Trumpet in D)
2 Trombones
Percussion (four players) **
Piano / Celesta
Electric Guitar / Spanish Guitar / Mandolin
Violin I - VII
Cello I - IV

** Traps, Vibraphone, 4 Pitched Drums, Xylophone, 3 Bongos, 3 Cowbells, Conga, Timbales, Snare Drum, Police Whistle, Gourd, 2 Suspended Cymbals, Castanets, Maracas, Finger Cymbals, Tambourines, Small Maracas, Glockenspiel, Woodblock, Claves, Triangle, Temple Blocks, Chines, Tam-tam, Ratchet, Slide Whistle

12. What is the instrumentation for West Side Story?

You can start by visiting the archives section of There, you can learn about the history of West Side Story. And for more information, you can head to Google and type in "West Side Story," "West Side Story and Romeo and Juliet," "West Side Story characters," "West Side Story plot," or "West Side Story awards," etc. Good luck and have fun!

13. How do I get started on researching more information about West Side Story?

You'll find pictures at or you can try an image search at Google's Image Search. Please note that all images at The Official West Side Story Site are used with permission from the copyright holders. If you are interested in using any of the photos at this site, please e-mail for more information.

14. How can I find pictures from West Side Story?

Here are some sample West Side Story essay topics:

  • What are the satirical numbers in the show, and what do they tell us about the Jets and the Sharks?
  • What are the different kinds of songs and musical pieces used in the movie?
  • What kind of dance numbers are there, and how do they differ from each other?
  • How in the opening do the Jets transfer from realistic motion into dance?
  • Discuss the Tonight Quintet - how does it show the anticipation of the gangs and Anita, Maria and Tony?
  • Arthur Laurents made up the slang that the gangs use. Describe and discuss it.
  • Discuss some of the interesting cinematic effects (such as the opening sequence of the city, or the use of color)
  • Discuss the relationship of Maria and Anita?
  • How do characters' prejudices evolve in the work?
  • What do you think happens after Tony is shot?

15. Can you suggest some topics to include in an essay about West Side Story?