Tales from a Broadway Legend

“The air
Is humming,
And something great is coming!”
-“Something’s Coming,” from West Side Story

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, no less.

Chita Rivera Sets New San Francisco Concert Dates | Playbill
Broadway legend Chita Rivera. Photo by Laurie Marie Duncan.

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 stage actress 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. Check out that exclusive interview by visiting The Superstar. Then, navigate through the site from left to right, starting with The Story, which summarizes the narrative of the show. Then visit The Gang, which examines the four Broadway greats who created the show, before moving on to The Process, which traces their journey from idea to full-blown Broadway debut. Finally, check out The Legacy, which considers West Side Story‘s significant, and complicated, place within the history of American musical theatre.

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. To learn more about The National Theatre and the Teens Behind the Scenes program, visit the About the Program page.


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