West Side Story

learn west world song on piano

Welcome to the official West Side Story website! This is the place for you if you’ve ever been involved in, or infatuated with, West Side Story – as an actor, singer, dancer, musician, producer, director, designer, crew or – just as important – as a fan.

My brother, sister, and I have always had West Side Story in our lives; we refer to the work as our “fourth sibling.” I myself have been a fan of the show ever since my dad composed the score back in the 1950’s, when I was a very little girl. I was too young to understand a lot of the story, but I loved it anyway. Who could resist that music?!

It can happen with a classic work that it will grow and unfold along with you over the course of your life. And so it was with me and West Side Story. At the age of ten, upon first seeing the film adaptation, I was so smitten that I vowed I would see it ten times! That was a very conservative vow, as it turned out. By now, I’ve seen and heard West Side Story more times and more ways than I can count: on three different Broadway stages, and at regional theaters all over the country; in movie houses, concert halls, and on video; in high schools and colleges; in a punk rock version, and a one-woman version by Cher(!); and even at the illustrious La Scala opera house in Milan, Italy, where the blue jeans and fire escapes onstage made a fine contrast with the elegantly dressed audience in the gilded balconies.

And that’s not all! Fasten your seat belts for the upcoming film remake of West Side Story — with a script by Tony Kushner, and directed by no less than Steven Spielberg. The film is scheduled to open in December of 2020.

Here on this site, you can indulge your fascination with this groundbreaking musical in any number of ways. You can read about how the authors developed the show’s concept and structure. (Did you know the original idea was for warring street gangs of Catholics and Jews?) You can “go backstage” at the original Broadway production in 1957. And you can search through a calendar of West Side Story performances worldwide — among which will be yet another Broadway revival, directed by the cutting-edge director, Ivo van Hove, coming in February of 2020. West Side Story is truly everywhere — and with its themes of love striving to rise above hatred; the fear of immigrants; and the toxicity of racism, West Side Story speaks to us today as urgently as ever.

I wish you happy browsing as you explore the world of West Side Story. It’s a world my brother, sister and I have lived in all our lives — and we’re still enthralled by our fourth sibling.

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Rehearsal Photographs, 1957. Friedman-Abeles, photographer. Courtesy of the New York Public Library.

Play conceived, directed, and choreographed by Jerome Robbins

Music by Leonard Bernstein

Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim

Book by Arthur Laurents

Photo by Jesse Gerstein (click for high-res)

JEROME ROBBINS

Jerome Robbins is world renowned for his work as a choreographer of ballets as well as his work as a director and choreographer in theater, movies and television. Although he began as a modern dancer, his start on Broadway was as a chorus dancer before joining the corps de ballet of American Ballet Theatre in 1939, where he went on to dance principal roles in the works of Fokine, Tudor, Massine, Balanchine, Lichine, and de Mille. His first ballet, Fancy Free (1944) for ABT, still in many repertoires, celebrated its fiftieth birthday on April 18, 1994. While embarking on his career in the theater, Mr. Robbins simultaneously created ballets for New York City Ballet, which he joined in 1949, and became an Associate Artistic Director with George Balanchine. Mr. Robbins has directed for television and film as well, with his co-direction and choreography of West Side Story winning him two Academy Awards. After his Broadway triumph with Fiddler On the Roof in 1964, Mr. Robbins continued creating ballets for New York City Ballet. He shared the position of Ballet-Master-in-Chief with Peter Martins until 1989. He has created more than 60 ballets, including Afternoon of a Faun (1953), The Concert (1956), Les Noces (1965), Dances At a Gathering (1969), In the Night (1970), In G Major (1975), Other Dances (1976), Glass Pieces (1983) and Ives Songs (1989) which are in the repertories of the New York City Ballet, the Ballet de l’Opera de Paris and major dance companies throughout the world. His most recent ballets include A Suite of Dances with Mikhail Baryshnikov (1994), 2 & 3 Part Inventions (1994), West Side Story Suite (1995) and Brandenburg (1996) all of which premiered at New York City Ballet.

In addition to his two Academy Awards, Mr. Robbins’s awards and citations include four Tony Awards, five Donaldson Awards, an Emmy Award, the Screen Directors’ Guild Award and the New York Drama Critics Circle Award. Mr. Robbins is a 1981 Kennedy Center Honors Recipient, was awarded the Commandeur de L’Order des Arts et des Lettres, is an honorary member of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, and was awarded a National Medal of Arts as well as the Governor’s Arts Awards by the New York State Council on the Arts. Some of his Broadway shows include On the Town, Billion Dollar Baby, High Button Shoes, West Side Story, The King and I, Gypsy, Peter Pan, Miss Liberty, Call Me Madam and Fiddler on the Roof. In 1989, Jerome Robbins’s Broadway won six Tony Awards including Best Musical and Best Director. He was most recently awarded the French Chevalier dans l’Ordre National de la Legion d’Honneur. Jerome Robbins passed away in 1998.

LEONARD BERNSTEIN

Composer, conductor, pianist, teacher, thinker, and adventurous spirit, Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990) transformed the way Americans and people everywhere hear and appreciate music. Bernstein’s successes as a composer ranged from the Broadway stage-West Side Story, On the Town, Wonderful Town, and Candide-to concert halls all over the world, where his orchestral and choral music continues to thrive. His major concert works include three symphonies-subtitled Jeremiah(1944), The Age of Anxiety (1949), and Kaddish (1963)-as well as Prelude, Fugue and Riffs(1949); Serenade for violin, strings and percussion (1954); Symphonic Dances from West Side Story (1960); Chichester Psalms (1965); Mass: A Theater Piece for Singers, Players and Dancers (1971); Songfest (1977); Divertimento for orchestra (1980); Halil for solo flute and small orchestra (1981); Touches (1981) and Thirteen Anniversaries (1988) for solo piano; Missa Brevis for singers and percussion (1988); Concerto for Orchestra: Jubilee Games(1989); and Arias and Barcarolles (1988). Bernstein also wrote the one-act opera Trouble in Tahiti in 1952, and its sequel, the three-act opera A Quiet Place, in 1983. He collaborated with choreographer Jerome Robbins on three major ballets-Fancy Free (1944), Facsimile (1946), and Dybbuk (1975). He received an Academy Award nomination for his score for On the Waterfront (1954).

As a conductor, Bernstein was a dynamic presence on the podiums of the world’s greatest orchestras for almost half a century, building a legacy that endures and continues to grow through a catalogue of over 500 recordings and filmed performances. Bernstein became Music Director of the New York Philharmonic in 1958, a position he held until 1969. Thereafter as permanent Laureate Conductor he made frequent guest appearances with the orchestra. Among the world’s great orchestras, Bernstein also enjoyed special relationships with the Israel Philharmonic and Vienna Philharmonic, both of which he conducted extensively in live performances and recordings. He won 11 Emmy Awards for his celebrated television work, including the Emmy award-winning Young People’s Concerts series with the New York Philharmonic. As teacher and performer, he played an active role with the Tanglewood Festival from its founding in 1940 till his death, as well as with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Institute and Pacific Music Festival (both of which he helped found) and the Schleswig Holstein Music Festival.

Bernstein received many honors, including the Kennedy Center Honors (1980); the American Academy of Arts and Letters’ Gold Medal (1981); the MacDowell Colony’s Gold Medal; medals from the Beethoven Society and the Mahler Gesellschaft; New York City’s Handel Medallion; a special Tony Award (1969); dozens of honorary degrees and awards from colleges and universities; and national honors from Austria, Italy, Israel, Mexico, Denmark, Germany, and France. In 1985 the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences honored Bernstein with the Lifetime Achievement GRAMMY Award. His writings were published in The Joy of Music (1959), Leonard Bernstein’s Young People’s Concerts (1961), The Infinite Variety of Music (1966), and Findings (1982). As the Charles Eliot Norton Professor of Poetry, Bernstein also delivered six lectures at Harvard University in 1972-1973 that were subsequently published and televised as The Unanswered Question. In 1990, he received the Praemium Imperiale from the Japan Arts Association awarded for lifetime achievement in the arts. Bernstein died on October 14, 1990.

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