In the stage musical, the song appears in the second act of the show during the Somewhere Ballet. It is performed by an off-stage soprano singer and is later reprised by the entire company. In the original Broadway production, "Somewhere" was sung by Reri Grist who played the role of Consuela.
At the end of the show, when Tony is shot, Maria sings the first few lines of the song as he dies in her arms.
In the 1961 film, the song occurs at a pivotal point, after the rumble in which former Jets leader Tony (Richard Beymer) has stabbed his girlfriend's brother, Bernardo (George Chakiris). Having nowhere else to go, Tony runs to his girlfriend, Maria (Natalie Wood). Maria has just been told of her brother's death and who killed him. When Tony comes to her room through the balcony window, Maria, in shock, pounds against his chest.
Realizing in spite of her anger that she still loves Tony, Maria begs him to hold her. After Maria cries out, "It's not us...it's everything around us." Tony replies, "Then I'll take you away, where nothing can get to us." He then begins singing "Somewhere" to her. His comforting voice draws her in and it becomes a duet of hope that their love will survive "somehow, someday, somewhere."
As in the stage show, Maria sings the first few lines of the song as Tony dies in her arms. In 2004, this version finished at #20 on AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs survey of top tunes in American cinema.
"Somewhere" is the only track that is out of sequence on the original soundtrack album as it is the last track on Side 2. This is rectified on the CD as "Somewhere" is correctly placed in sequence to the film between "The Rumble" and "Cool."
In 1965, the Supremes recorded the song for their album, There's a Place for Us, though it went unreleased until 2004. They also used it for their debut appearance at the Copacabana nightclub in New York City and it eventually became a fixture of their nightclub acts. They also sang the song on The Ed Sullivan Show and The Hollywood Palace. In contrast to the original melody, a special dramatic monologue was incorporated, which was frequently changed in conjunction with changes in the group as well as the country's turmoil in the late 1960s.
In the aftermath of the shooting of Martin Luther King, Jr., the monologue was changed to reflect King's famous "I Have a Dream" speech. When the Supremes appeared on the The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson the day after King had been murdered, lead singer Diana Ross was so overcome with emotion that she practically stumbled through the speech, but got an extraordinary ovation from the studio audience. It would once again be nationally televised several months later that year when the group paired up with the Temptations for an NBC television special, TCB. The monolgue for that special went as follows:
"Yes, there's a place for each of us,Where love is like a passion, burning like a fire,Let our efforts be as determined as that of Dr. Martin Luther King,Who had a dream that all God's children,Black men, white men, Jews, Gentiles, Protestants, and Catholics,Could join hands and sing that spiritual of all:"Free at last! Free at last! Thank God almighty, we are free at last!"
"Somewhere" was released as a single by the British music group Pet Shop Boys in 1997 to promote their "Somewhere" residency at the Savoy Theatre in London, which was named after the song, and to promote a repackage of Bilingual.
Frida Boccara recorded "Un Pays Pour Nous" (French version of the song) on her albums: Un Jour, Un Enfant (1969), Place des Arts '71 (1971, live in Montreal, double LP Philips and CD 2006), An Evening with Frida Boccara (1978, Live at Dallas Brooks Hall, Melbourne - 2 LP Philips and Les grandes Années 1972–1988, 3 CD Marianne Mélodie).