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West Side Story

             In West Side Story, themes of love, tragedy, and justice are brought to life in dance, song, and music. Leonard Bernstein created a musical based on the Romeo and Juliet story. This updated version is set amid a turf war of two rival street gangs in New York City. The hostility between the Jets and their Puerto Rican rivals, the Sharks, is a modern day counter play of the feud between the Capulet and the Montagues from Shakespeare's play. In this heartbreaking tale, Tony, one of the Jets, and Maria, the sister of Bernardo, meet at a dance and immediately fall in love. Riff (the leader of the Jets) and Bernardo (the leader of the Sharks) bring their two gangs together for a rumble. When Tony tries to stop the fight, Riff is stabbed by Bernardo and Tony in a fit of anger turns and kills Bernardo, mirroring Shakespeare's pattern of the killing and counter killing of Mercutio by Tybalt, and of Tybalt by Romero. Horrified by his action, Tony becomes a fugitive and plans to escape with Maria but, all is not to end well for this young couple. Through a twist of events Tony is told that Maria has died, not wanting to live without Maria, Tony comes out of hiding. Revealing himself to the Sharks in the process, and is shot and killed by Chino (a shark member), just at the moment Tony and Maria are reunited.
             Where Shakespeare used language to advance the plot and instill his play with energy and passion, West Side Story uses songs and chorography by Jerome Robbins. The Prologue establishes the underlying conflict of the entire story. The following song the Jet song is practically a tag onto the Prologue, and establishes the voice of the gang as it prepares for a rumble. Something's Coming is then performed as a solo by Tony. Then comes the Dance at the Gym which includes the "Mambo" number where Maria and Tony spy each other from across the room. Maria is Tony's song of love for his Juliet. Which leads to Tonight the modern day Romeo and Juliet balcony scene but, for our Romeo and Juliet it takes place on a fire escape.

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