On this date in 1957, the most acclaimed musical of all time, West Side Story, opens at the Winter Garden Theatre on Broadway.
Composed by the “Renaissance man of music”, Leonard Bernstein, West Side Story receive a mixed critical response when it first opened. Debuting one day after the forced integration of Central High School in Little Rock, the musical’s story of racial conflict was discomfiting to some. West Side Story won just two Tony Awards, for choreography and set design, but made an impressive maiden run of 732 performances.
West Side Story is a reinterpretation of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet transposed onto New York’s West Side, Bernstein worked with the brilliant choreographer Jerome Robbins and the lyricist Stephen Sondheim. West Side Story tells the tale of a love affair between Tony, who is Polish American, and Maria, a Puerto Rican, set against an urban background of interracial warfare. With its gritty story and volatile dance sequences, West Side Story was the antithesis of traditional American musicals. Bernstein’s exhilarating, semi-operatic score runs throughout the play and keeps the tension and emotion high.
In 1961, the movie West Side Story, the adaptation of the Broadway musical, was released. It stars Natalie Wood, Richard Beymer, Russ Tamblyn, Rita Moreno, and George Chakiris. The film was nominated for 11 Academy Awards and won 10, including Best Picture, becoming the record holder for the most wins for a musical.
Text: History, Wikipedia.
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