From ‘Romeo & Juliet’ to ‘West Side Story’

Picture by Randy Lemoine on Flickr

Picture by Randy Lemoine on Flickr

Romeo & Juliet’ is one of the most popular plays from Shakespeare. It’s been used and adapted in different ways. It has inspired many composers such as Bellini, Berlioz , Tchaikovski and of course the Broadway musical ‘West Side Story’.

In 1940, the choreograph Jerome Robbins proposed Leonard Bernstein to make a new adaptation of ‘Romeo & Juliet’. They decided to write a story about a Jewish boy that falls in love with a catholic Italian girl. It was supposed to be called ‘East Side Story’, but during the 50’s, there are lots of changes in the American population, so they decided to change everything.

Arthur Laurents was the writer, Leonard Bernstein the composer of the songs, with lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. The first performance on Broadway was in 1957 and everybody loved it. That’s why there was a film adaptation a few years later directed by Robert Wise and choreography by Jerome Robbins. Most of the actors weren’t famous until then, just Natalie Wood, and they didn’t know how to sing. Some professional singers performed the songs.

This month we will discover the relationship between ‘West Side Story’, one of the most important musicals on Broadway, and ‘Romeo & Juliet’, the Shakespeare’s play that has inspired everybody since it was written.



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