The musical version of Romeo & Juliet is re-imagined on the streets of  New York's Upper West Side. 

A Modern Shakespearean Tale 
West Side Story is based on Shakespeare's classic Romeo and Juliet. The musical's creators reset the story in the west side of New York City during the last days of summer in 1957.
Two Gangs
The musical opens with a dance number that establishes the rivalry between two teenage gangs, The Jets and The Sharks. Fueled by ethnic prejudice and the struggle for neighborhood dominance, the gangs are in constant conflict.

The Sharks are young Puerto Rican immigrants, lead by Bernardo (played by Ken LeRoy).

The Jets are white, misfit teens lead by Riff (Micky Calin). Although the Jets are mostly boys, a young teenage girl called Anybodys (Lee Becker) is also part of this gang.

Riff (a Jet) plans to challenge Bernardo (a Shark) to a rumble at a community dance that evening.

Riff's best friend, Tony, has left the Jets and works at Doc's drugstore. Riff convinces the hesitant Tony to come to the dance with the rest of the Jets. 
Bernardo's younger sister, Maria (Carol Lawrence), has recently immigrated from Puerto Rico. She is to be married to Bernardo's friend and fellow gang member, Chino, a man she does not love.
The Dance at the Gym
At the dance, the feud continues, but non-violently, because of the presence of the cops. Still there is line between the two. 

The adults, attempting to make peace, ask the teens to dance together as friends.

The two gangs dance, but as a kind of non-violent suggestion of the rumble to come.

Their Eyes Meet
During the dance, Maria and Tony meet, fall in love at first sight, and dance.

Bernardo catches Maria and Tony in a kiss. Angry, he separates the two and calls for a "rumble."

"I just met a girl named Maria"
Tony leaves the dance dreaming about Maria. He searches for Maria, calling out her name. 

A window above him opens. It is Maria! He begs to speak to her. Hesitant, Maria meets with him on the fire escape. They kiss, promising to meet the next night at the bridal shop.

As the rest of the Sharks leave the dance, their girlfriends congregate outside their apartment building.

The women discuss the differences between Puerto Rico and America. One of the girls, Rosalia, laments about being homesick. Anita points out the better things America has to offer.

Get Cool, Boy...
Meanwhile at the drugstore, Tony tells his boss (Doc) that he is in love with Maria. Doc warns him there will be trouble ahead. The two gangs have agreed to meet at the drugstore to establish the rules of the fight. As they wait, Riff tells the agitated gang members to "keep it cool". Finally the Sharks arrive. The leaders agree upon a fair fight: fists only with no weapons involved.
One Hand, One Heart
Maria anxiously waits for Tony at the bridal shop. At last he arrives and together the couple dreams of their future wedding.
The Rumble
The two gangs gather under the highway for the fight.

Tony has promised Maria he will try to stop the violence. When he tries to do so, the fight begins.

Bernardo kills Riff.

Enraged by the death of his best friend, Tony kills Bernardo. The police sirens are heard, and the gangs run off.

Maria and her friends prepare to go out when the rest of the Sharks return from the rumble. She tells them that tonight is her wedding night. Maria and the girls sing a song ("I Feel Pretty") in which Maria celebrates her love and is teased for her unabashed romanticism.

Dream Ballet
Tony crawls through Maria's window and confesses he has killed Bernardo. At first, Maria is upset with him, but when Tony tells Maria he is planning on turning himself into the police, she begs him to stay with her.Maria and Tony dream together of running away to a better place. This leads to a "dream ballet," a popular convention in mid-20th century musicals in which the deepest desires and thoughts of the characters are explored through dance. In the 1957 script, this dream ballet begins with both Jets and Sharks present: "They begin to dance, to play: no sides, no hostility now; just joy and pleasure and warmth. "
A Message to Deliver
Tony and Maria plan to meet at Doc's Drugstore so they can run away together. As she gets ready to leave, Anita and Officer Schrank arrive. Officer Schrank must get a statement from Maria. She asks Anita to go to the drugstore in her place. The reluctant Anita arrives at Doc's and asks to speak with Tony. The Jets are there and assault Anita with sexist and racist taunts. Furious, Anita lies and tells the Jets that Chino has shot Maria.
Hiding out in the drugstore basement, Tony awaits to hear from Doc about Maria. Doc relays Anita's message.
"There's a place for us"
Tony runs out into the streets, calling for Chino to shoot him, Anybodys tries to stop him. Maria arrives to meet Tony in the alley, as they walk to each other, a gunshot is heard. 

Chino has killed Tony. Grief-stricken, Maria tells the gangs they have all killed him with their hatred for each other.

According to legend, Richard Rodgers told the creators to depart from the Shakespearean source and leave Maria alive, saying, "She's dead already."

One by one, the gang members all come together and carry Tony's body away.

Credits: Story

Curated by Misy Singson.
Photographs by: Friedman-Abeles, Martha Swope & Florence Vandamm.

Original 1957 Scenic Design by Oliver Smith, © Rosaria Sinisi

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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