ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

West Side Story Review and Commentary

Updated on April 3, 2019
DzyMsLizzy profile image

Liz has been an online writer for over nine years. Her articles often focus on music and culture of the 20th century.



First performed: On Broadway in 1957, where it ran for 732 performances

Story written by: Arthur Laurents

Music by: Leonard Bernstein

Lyrics by: Steven Sondheim (his Broadway debut)

Choreography by: Jerome Robbins

Produced by: Robert E. Griffith and Harold Prince

The setting is the upper West Side of New York City in the mid 1950s.

Robbins won a Tony Award for the choreography, and Oliver Smith won one for his scenic design.

Following the Broadway run, the show went on tour, and ran in London even longer than it had run on Broadway. It subsequently had numerous revivals and international productions.

For the musical1961 film adaptation, Robbins collaborated with Robert Wise, in which both shared directing credits.

Interestingly, Robbins had initially approached Laurents to write an adaptation of Romeo and Juliet back in 1947, but the project did not appeal at that time, and was shelved.

Warning: Spoiler Alert

Major spoiler alert! If you, like me, were hiding under a rock and have never seen this play, you might want to stop reading now. Or, continue reading if you want the stripped-down version.

Afterthought: I wasn't truly "hiding under a rock," I was merely too young to be aware of Broadway plays. When it debuted, I was only 9 years old; when the movie version came out, I was a very young-for-my-age, over-protected 13 years old. I wasn't aware of it then, either, and had I been, I probably wouldn't have had the full understanding I have as an adult.

Although this musical was first performed on Broadway, in September of 1957, and later made into a full-length movie, released in 1961, I had somehow never seen either version.

So, at the ripe old age of 71, in 2019, I finally watched the movie version. I was more or less shocked at the ugliness of the plot.

While I was aware that the story was essentially a modernized version of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, I was not prepared for the modern twist of the story.

Racial Tensions

Instead of feuding families, it's about feuding rival street gangs, and not just any gangs, but groups whose main focus is racial bias.

The ugly prejudice and name-calling was something I did not expect; it is so blatant, and so much a part of the entire story! It was also very much a part of the era in which the events are set.

It was also very sad. It is, after all, a tragic love story, but I felt additional sadness at the seemingly endless inability of humans to just get along, and to recognize our mutual underlying humanity, and overlook the skin-level differences. This play truly emphasizes that failing, and multiple losses and tragedies are the result.

"Tonight" Probably the Most Recognized Song From This Play

Star-Crossed Lovers

The protagonists, Maria and Tony fall in love; unfortunately, their family members and friends belong to rival gangs.

Maria's family desperately tries to forbid her to see her love interest, telling her to “find one of your own.” Maria is Puerto Rican; Tony is American. The lovers continue their tryst in spite of external pressures. In the end, Maria's brother ends up dead, and so does Tony.

The “Jets,” the American street gang goes to battle with the “Sharks,” the Puerto Rican street gang, and in addition to Maria's brother, the lead member of the “Jets” also gets killed.

A "Rodney King" Plea

This truly is a case of art mirroring life.

What is so sad about this outcome, is that it's something we still see happening in this day and age: people railing against “immigrants,” all the while failing to recognize and accept that we are all immigrants to this country; or are the descendants of immigrants.

Not one of us, save the Native American Tribes, can truly claim full generational native-born status!

It's time to get over ourselves, and leave this divisiveness behind in the dirt where it belongs, and learn to get along with each other, and deal with the much larger issues facing us in the 21st century.


© 2019 Liz Elias


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)