May 22nd, 2017

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Review: ‘West Side Story’ at The Media Theatre

By Ellen Wilson Dilks

Earlier this season, The Media Theatre presented Shakespeare’s classic Romeo & Juliet. Now they’re concluding their 2016-2017 season with a production of West Side Story, the musical that put a 20th Century spin on the Bard’s story and became a masterwork in its own right. Set in New York’s Upper West Side in the mid-1950s, West Side Story tells the story of two rival gangs, one all-white (the Jets) and the other all-Puerto Rican (the Sharks). The Jets are led by Riff, whose best friend, Tony (a former gang member), falls in love with Maria — the younger sister of Bernardo, the leader of the Sharks.
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West Side Story vs. Romeo & Juliet:

Based on Shakespeare’s renowned Romeo & Juliet, West Side Story, like Romeo & Juliet, is about forbidden love and romance across familial barriers in a large city, amid constant feuding on both sides, which resulted in violence and death, and finally, reconciliation between the two families, which took the resulting deaths to happen.

There are some important differences between Romeo & Juliet and West Side Story, however.

A) Unlike in Romeo & Juliet, where Romeo drinks poison, but survives, Juliet, thinking that Romeo has died, stabs herself
to death, and neither of them survive, West Side Story's Tony dies after being shot and killed by Shark gang member, Chino, in retaliation for his having stabbed Shark gang leader, Bernardo, to death, after Tony knifed Bernardo to death for having killed his close buddy, Riff, while Maria survives.Collapse )