It’s the American idea of getting along—five performances only
This year marks the 61st anniversary of “West Side Story” which opened in 1957 on Broadway, with music by Leonard Bernstein, a libretto by Arthur Laurents and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and was Sondheim’s Broadway début (Oscar Hammerstein convinced Sondheim to give it a go).
The choreography was by Jerome Robbins, who had begun thinking about a “Romeo and Juliet” musical, set in present-day New York. At the beginning, Tony was Irish Catholic and the girl who became Maria was a Jewish survivor of the Holocaust. When the curtain went up, Maria was Puerto Rican, Tony was Irish Catholic and Polish and the setting was the West Side. Critic Walter Kerr, in his opening night review, wrote in the New York Herald Tribune, “The radioactive fallout from ‘West Side Story’ must still be descending on Broadway this morning.”
For a segment of our patrons who grew up in New York in the late 1950s and early ‘60s, “West Side Story” taught us about tragedy, and love, and sex. There were broken hearts all over the place, like broken glass. And just as fragile was the idea that things can go very, very wrong, in an instant, but that the most important thing in the world was that we all learned to get along.
We called it an American idea: that the future is an exciting opportunity, somewhere soon, together. Tony sings, “Something’s coming, something good…come on in, don’t be shy, meet a guy, pull up a chair!” After all, we were going to rocket to the moon and everything was possible.
As years have gone by, we understand the poignancy of the Act II song, “Somewhere,” and we understand loss along with love. “West Side Story” has become the anthem of New York City: an incendiary story about two rival gangs, two kids in love, about neighborhoods, about Puerto Rico and New York, and betrayal. Bernstein, whose centenary this is, whose own life was complicated, and who knew something about the exigencies of love and sorrow, once said, “This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.”
And we still are hoping in America that somehow, somewhere we can still all “get along.”
Please join us May 11-13 for five performances of “West Side Story” presented by Ron Kurtz / 3,000 Miles Off Broadway and the Simi Valley Actors Repertory Theatre in honor of Mothers’ Day and ending violence in our schools and communities! Call (818) 508-4200 for tickets.
Performances May 11 at 8pm, May 12th at 3 and 8pm, and May 13 at 1 and 5pm. Code: Tolucan for a special discount!
El Portal Theatre is located at 5269 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, 91601. For more details, visit ElPortalTheatre.com or call (818) 508-0281.