January 5th, 2020

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‘West Side Story’: How We Covered the Classic N.Y.C. Musical
Since its 1957 premiere, The New York Times has tracked the musical’s evolution, covering its casting, its politics and its role in the Cold War along the way.

By Jennifer Schuessler

From the time it was announced, the new revival of “West Side Story” directed by Ivo van Hove has drawn curiosity: Just how radically would the beloved classic be transformed? (What — no “I Feel Pretty”?)

But the original — with its lush Leonard Bernstein score, finger-snapping Jerome Robbins choreography and lyrics by a then little-known Stephen Sondheim — was itself hailed as startlingly new almost from its opening night, on Sept. 26, 1957.
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wss cool knees by skybound2

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A Radical Restaging of “West Side Story”
In the new Broadway production, avant-garde choreography incorporates salsa and hip-hop.

When “West Side Story” débuted, in 1957, critics praised its lush, syncopated score, by Leonard Bernstein; its sardonic lyrics, by Stephen Sondheim; and the profane energy of Arthur Laurents’s script. But the choreography of Jerome Robbins, who also directed the musical, was its greatest revelation: his finger-snapping gang members seamlessly combined ballet moves with the body language of the street. In the subsequent six decades, some critics have suggested that the show’s portrayal of gang warfare was a bit romantic. Others have noted that the creators weren’t versed in Latino culture. Nevertheless, whenever “West Side Story” was revived on Broadway, the Sharks and the Jets moved exactly as Robbins had imagined them.
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