WHAT'S HAPPENING, BROADWAY FANS! We are only 32 DAYS AWAY from Broadway's biggest night of the year, the 73rd annual Tony Awards. Our TOP 40 TONY AWARDS COUNTDOWN continues playing you some of the best toe-tapping performances from the past telecasts.
At #32 on our countdown, we take you to New York City on the upper west side where a boy and a girl from two rival neighborhood groups fall into a forbidden love that will change their lives forever. This is one of the most iconic musicals of all time. Yup, you guessed it. It is West Side Story on Broadway. The show features an iconic score by Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim, a book by Arthur Laurents and legendary staging by Jerome Robbins. The musical is a modern-day retelling of William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.
From the 1980 telecast, the legendary Debbie Allen as "Anita," and the cast of that year?s revival perform one of the big signature songs from the entire musical. The song about where everyone dreams of?.. AMERICA.
West Side Story was originally conceived in 1947 when Jerome Robbins told Leonard Bernstein and Arthur Laurents about doing a contemporary retelling of ROMEO & JULIET. The original script was completely different from the verses that we know now about the show. It was actually set during the Passover-Easter time with the original rival gangs being Irish Catholic "Jets" and the Jewish "Emeralds" living on the Lower East Side (originally conceived as EAST SIDE STORY). After that original script was completed, Laurents and the team realized that there have already been a few plays with that same theme, including ABIE'S IRISH ROSE. The project was canceled and put back on the shelves. In addition, Laurents, Robbins, and Bernstein went their separate ways. Five years later, the three reunited on another project but decided to go back to EAST SIDE STORY by adding a fourth member of the team….Stephen Sondheim. One day in Los Angeles, the four came across stories in the newspaper about a group of juvenile delinquents and decided to change the setting to LA. However, Laurents said to keep it in New York City getting used to the life of the Puerto Rican immigrants and Harlem residents, instead of Mexican Americans and Olvera Street. At the same time, Jerome Robbins was familiar with Latin music and was stoked when he heard they would use that music style in the story. The team went back to NYC and changed everything, making the story the way we all know it featuring the American "Jets" and Puerto Rican "Sharks" of the Upper West Side.
The show officially opened on Broadway in 1957 (following a smash sold-out-of-town run in Washington, D.C.) at the Winter Garden Theatre for 732 performances. Under the direction and choreography of Jerome Robbins, the cast originally starred?
Larry Kert as "Tony,"
Carol Lawrence (later Leila Martin) as "Maria,"
Tony winning legend Chita Rivera (later Carmen Alvarez, !Devra Kowin, and Maurel Bently) in her breakout role as "Anita?,
Mickey Calin (later Hank Brunjes, Thomas Hasson, and Tucker Smith) as ?Riff,
Ken Le Roy (later Carmine Terra and George Marcy) as ?Bernardo?,
Jamie Sanchez (later Erne Castaldo) as ?Chino?,
Arch Johnson as ?Detective Schrank?,
William Bramley (later Roger Franklin) as ?Officer Krupke?
The show was nominated for 6 Tony Awards in 1958, winning only 2 including Best Choreography (by Jerome Robbins).
Following its original Broadway run, WEST SIDE STORY went on to wow audiences around the world.
It was later revived twice on Broadway starting in 1980 playing Broadway's Minskoff Theatre for 333 performances. Under the direction and choreography once again of Jerome Robbins, the cast starred?.
Ken Marshall as "Tony,"
Josie de Guzman as "Maria,"
Debbie Allen as "Anita."
James J. Mellon as ?Riff?,
Hector Jaime Mercado as ?Bernardo?,
Ray Contreras as ?Chino?,
Arch Johnson reprising his performance of ?Detective Schrank?,
John Bentley as ?Officer Krupke?,
It was nominated for 3 Tonys that year including Best Revival of a Musical, but lost in all of its categories.
The most recent revival happened in 2009 playing Broadway's Palace Theatre for 775 performances. For this production, it was well known for including translated dialogue and several song lyrics into Spanish by Tony winner Lin-Manuel Miranda. Under the direction of the show?s book writer Arthur Laurents and choreography (recreating Jerome Robbins original staging) by Peter Gennaro and Joey McNeeley, this cast featured…
Tony nominee Josefina Sacglione (later Sarah Amengual) as ?Maria",
George Akram as ?Bernardo?,
Joey Haro (later Manuel Stark Santos and Michael Rosen) as ?Chino?,
Steve Bassett as ?Detective Schrank?,
It was nominated for 4 Tony Awards winning including Best Revival of a Musical. It took home only 1 win for Best Featured Actress in a Musical (for Karen Olivo).
WEST SIDE STORY will be coming back to Broadway later this upcoming 2019-2020 season. This new production will be directed by Tony Award winner Ivo van Hove and choreographed by Anne-Teresa De Keersmaecker. Previews begin December 10th, 2019 and Opening Night scheduled for February 6th, 2020. No word has been announced for a Theater or casting.
Today the show is also a popular musical performed in Schools, Community, and Regional Theaters around the world.
Along with its success on the stage, WEST SIDE STORY became a worldwide hit when the iconic film adaptation was released in 1961 from United Artist. In addition, the film had several of the main roles having voice dubs to the principal actors. Under the direction of Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins (who also choreographed the film), the cast starred?
Golden Globe winner Richard Beymer (with Jimmy Bryant?s singing voice) as "Tony",
the late Golden Globe winner Natalie Wood (with Marni Nixon?s singing voice) as "Maria,"
the legendary Rita Moreno as "Anita?,
Russ Tamblyn as ?Riff?,
Oscar winner George Chakiris as ?Bernardo?,
Jose De Vega as ?Chino?,
Simon Oakland as ?Detective Schank?,
and William Bramley as ?Officer Krupke?.
It received critical acclaim during its opening week. The film was nominated for 11 Oscars and took home 10 including Best Picture. The film also made history as the only Musical movie ever to receive the most Oscar nominations.
FUN FACT: The film version of WEST SIDE STORY was filmed in the area of what a few years later was torn down to become Lincoln Center.
In addition to the original 1961 film version, a new film adaptation of the musical from 20th Century Fox is gearing up to start filming this Summer 2019 and will be released in Theaters everywhere on December 18th, 2020 (at the same timing of the upcoming new Broadway revival). Under the direction of the legendary Steven Allan Spielberg, the cast will feature?
Ansel Elgort as ?Tony?,
Newcomer Rachel Zegler (who was discovered in a huge casting call beating over 1,000 hopefuls) as ?Maria?,
Tony nominee Ariana DeBose as ?Anita?,
Tony nominee Mike Faist as ?Riff?,
Tony winner David Alvarez as ?Bernardo?,
Jose Andres Rivera as ?Chino?,
Corey Stoll as ?Detective Schank?,
and Tony nominee Brian d'Arcy James as ?Officer Krupke?.
We are so looking forward to seeing this timeless recreated both on stage and screen coming up!!
Doesn't this musical make you wanna "MAMBO"?!!!