Starting at $15
Starting at $15
Leonard Bernstein’s enduring musical brings “Romeo and Juliet” to the streets of 1950s New York.
Based on a conception of Jerome Robbins, book by Arthur Laurents, music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Celebrate Leonard Bernstein’s 100th birthday with a production whose heartbreaking themes, brilliant music and vibrant characters forever changed American musical theatre. “West Side Story” transports Shakespeare’s tragic “Romeo and Juliet” to the streets of 1950s New York, where two star-crossed lovers on opposite sides of a bitter gang rivalry fight to keep their relationship alive. Sixty years after its premiere, this visceral tale about the immigrant struggle to find a place in American society still resonates.
West Side Story is presented through special arrangement with Music Theatre International (MTI). All authorized performance materials are also supplied by MTI. www.MTIShows.com
Performance dates and times:
Friday, Oct. 26, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 27, 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, Oct. 28, 2 p.m.
It's a balmy summer in the slums of the upper west side, Manhattan, New York.
After ruling the turf of their neighborhood for the past several years, the Jets, a street gang of Polish American teenagers led by Riff, find themselves competing in a territorial battle with the newly immigrated Puerto Rican Sharks, led by Bernardo. Tensions heat up, resulting in bullying and a fist fight on the playground broken up by Lieutenant Schrank and Officer Krupke. After the incident, Riff plots with his fellow Jets to settle their differences with the Sharks through a rumble (or street fight) at the neighborhood dance. The dance is at the gym—some of the only neutral territory in the neighborhood. Riff brings up that the Sharks may fight with weapons instead of their fists, but the group seems excited about this possibility.
Riff also wants to invite Tony, his close friend and former fellow Jet, but the group is concerned about Tony’s loyalty.
Riff meets with Tony at Doc’s Drugstore to convince him to join the Jets at the dance. Tony is reluctant to join—he has left the gang life behind him—but he decides to help Riff and to meet the group at the dance. Tony tells Riff that he feels that something incredible is about to happen to him, and Riff suggests that it may happen at this dance.
Maria, sister of Shark leader Bernardo, is working in a bridal shop with Bernardo’s girlfriend, Anita. Maria is new to the neighborhood, having just arrived from Puerto Rico. It has been arranged that Maria will marry Chino—another member of the Sharks—but Maria confesses that she does not have feelings for him. Anita and Maria plan on attending the neighborhood dance, and Anita is making a dress for Maria.
Both groups arrive at the dance. It is already obvious that tensions are high, and a fight is likely to break out. Glad Hand, a social worker, and Officer Krupke quickly rush to break up the teens. The dancing begins. Tony and Maria see each other from across the room for the first time, and it’s as if all of their friends have disappeared. They begin to dance. Bernardo spots the two together and angrily pulls Maria away, telling her that Tony is only trying to take advantage of her. Bernardo orders Chino to take Maria home. Before both gangs leave the dance, Riff and Bernardo make a plan to meet at Doc’s to decide where and when the final rumble will take place and to establish some rules.
Once home, Bernardo warns Maria about Tony and tells her to keep her distance. Anita scolds him, saying that in America women have the right to be involved with whichever man they want. The group breaks into song about the pros and cons of living in America as immigrants.
Tony is walking the streets of the neighborhood alone, still dazzled by Maria, calling out her name. Maria hears him and climbs out onto her fire escape. The two express their love for each other and agree to meet at the bridal shop the next day after closing.
The Jets await the Sharks at Doc’s store. Officer Krupke shows up, suspicious of the group. The teens show no respect for him and proceed to make fun of him and other societal authority figures. The Sharks arrive, and the discussion of the time and location of the fight begins. Tony joins the group and convinces them that only fists should be used. Schrank arrives on the scene, attempting to discover the details of the upcoming rumble. Tony tells Doc about his love for Maria, much to the concern of Doc.
The next day, Maria couldn’t be in better spirits at the bridal shop, and her co-workers have noticed. Tony arrives at the shop, and Maria asks him to try to stop the fight from happening. The two playfully pretend to get married in the bridal shop.
Both gangs prepare for the rumble that evening. The teens meet at the designated location—under the highway—and the fighting begins between Bernardo and Diesel. Tony arrives and tries to stop the conflict, but Bernardo advances towards him and blades are quickly drawn between Riff and Bernardo when Riff comes to Tony’s defense. Riff has an opportunity to kill Bernardo but is held back by Tony. Bernardo attacks and kills Riff. Tony, in a fit of rage, attacks and kills Bernardo. Mass chaos breaks out between the gangs and sirens are heard. The groups scatter. Tony, filled with shame and shock at what he has done, flees the scene at the last moment. The bodies of Riff and Bernardo are left alone.
Maria, still giddy with new love and currently daydreaming about Tony, has no idea what has unfolded between the gangs. Chino tells Maria what Tony has done, and Maria, overcome with disbelief, runs to her room and prays that it isn’t true. Tony is there waiting for her. Every part of her being wants to hate Tony, but she is still in love with him. The streets outside are glowing with flashing lights from police cars, but the two dream of a place where they can be free of judgment and prejudice and live peacefully. The two plan to run away.
The Jets meet, shocked and angry, because nobody actually planned on killing anyone. Their new leader, Ice, tells them to relax and be cool. Anybodys tells the group that Chino is hunting Tony with a loaded gun, craving revenge for Bernardo’s death. The group plans efforts for Tony’s protection. Anita arrives, terribly upset, and Tony quickly leaves, telling Maria to meet him at Doc’s later. Anita can tell that Tony has been in the house and is very angry with Maria for staying faithful and continuing to love Tony. However, through Maria’s efforts to explain, Anita realizes that Tony’s love for Maria is just as strong as her own love for Bernardo, and she warns Maria of Chino’s plan.
Lieutenant Schrank arrives, detaining Maria for questioning about Bernardo’s death. Anita leaves to tell Tony that Maria will be late. The Jets, who have already found Tony and are waiting at Doc’s, attack Anita verbally and physically. Anita is livid, and out of spite tells the Jets that Chino has shot and killed Maria.
Doc tells Tony this horrible news, and Tony seeks out Chino in agony to beg for his own death. Tony arrives at the playground and sees Maria, alive and healthy. He runs towards her overjoyed, but Chino steps out of the darkness and delivers a fatal shot. All gang members and adults flock to the scene, and Maria holds Tony in her arms as he dies, both reliving their previous daydream of finding a peaceful place. Full of anger, the Jets yet again advance toward the Sharks, but Maria grabs the gun and threatens both gangs. She claims that it was the Sharks and the Jets together who killed Bernardo, Riff and Tony. Maria is not able to bring herself to use the gun, however, and drops it to the ground. The gang members assemble on both sides of Tony’s body, symbolizing that the feud has finally ended. A procession of both Jets and Sharks is formed, and Tony is carried away, with Maria the last one to leave.
Buying options: Discounts for groups, youth, seniors, students, CU employees and season ticket orders. Learn more
Leonard Bernstein at 100
Margarita (A Shark)
Velma, Dance Captain
CU Presents Digital
We invite you to watch, listen and gather with us online right now. Each week we will bring you curated creations from the artists you’d see in any other CU Presents season, in the comfort of your own home.Digital Home