The memorable lyrics. The soaring score. The legendary choreography. Few American musicals have better ingredients than West Side Story. Since debuting on Broadway in 1957, the show has gone on to become an Oscar-winning film, enjoyed numerous revivals, and inspired artists the world over. Adapted from William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, West Side Story follows Tony and Maria, a pair of star-crossed lovers in mid-20th century New York. Caught in the middle of a gang war fought along racial lines, Tony and Maria struggle to balance love for each other with duty to family – a struggle that ultimately ends in tragedy. Like many classics, West Side Story was brought together by a legendary team, and like many great Broadway musicals, that legendary team made a big stop on the way to Broadway: at The National Theatre. In this site, we’ll explore the complex history of West Side Story, the characteristics that make it exceptional, and its enduring legacy. Thankfully, we’ll have some help courtesy of Chita Rivera, the legendary performer who first played the pivotal role of Anita on Broadway. Ms. Rivera was kind enough to speak to Jared Strange, dramaturg for the Teens Behind the Scenes program, about her life in the theatre and what West Side Story meant to her. Click Start Here above to listen to that interview and then work your way through the site page by page (or by the menu if you prefer). As usual, you’ll find plenty of archival materials to review in the From the Archives section, as well as a some thought provoking questions to ponder listed under Consider This…

The National Theatre Corporation’s Teens Behind the Scenes program is made possible through the generous support of Jacqueline Badger Mars. These sites are curated by dramaturg Jared Strange. Click here to learn more about Teens Behind the scenes.

The National Theatre Corporation is the 501(c)(3) non-profit entity responsible for the continued operation and preservation of The National Theatre. Donations to the National Theatre Corporation help fund necessary capital improvements and maintenance to preserve this historic facility. Additionally, contributions support free community and educational programming, and make possible the management of a vast, content-rich archive. To make your tax-deductible contribution to the National Theatre Corporation, please visit our secure giving website, with our thanks. 

The Nederlander Organization manages and programs the theatre, including the Broadway at The National series. The name “Nederlander” has been synonymous with great entertainment since 1912. Led by James L. Nederlander, President, the organization continues the tradition of operating iconic, historic theatres, as well as producing and presenting the best in theatrical entertainment and concert performances. To learn more, please visit