West Side Story is a musical written by Arthur Laurents (book), Leonard Bernstein (music), and Stephen Sondheim (lyrics). The story is based loosely on Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, which was, in turn, based on a narrative poem by Arthur Brooke entitled The Tragicall Historye of Romeus and Juliet (1562).
Set in Manhattan's Upper West Side, the musical explores the rivalry between two teenage gangs of different ethnic and cultural backgrounds. The young protagonist, Tony, who belongs to the white gang, falls in love with Maria, the sister of the leader of the rival Puerto Rican gang. The dark theme, sophisticated music, extended dance scenes and focus on social problems marked a turning point in American musical theater. Bernstein's score for the musical has become extremely popular, including "Something's Coming", "Maria", "America," "Somewhere," "Tonight", "Jet Song", "I Feel Pretty", "One Hand, One Heart", and "Cool".
The original 1957 Broadway production, directed and choreographed by Jerome Robbins and produced by Robert E. Griffith and Harold Prince, marked Stephen Sondheim's Broadway debut. It ran for 732 performances (a very successful run for the time), before going on tour. The production garnered a Tony Award nomination for Best Musical in 1957, but the award ultimately went to Meredith Willson's The Music Man. The show has enjoyed an even longer-running London production, a number of revivals and international success, and spawned an innovative, award-winning 1961 musical film of the same name. West Side Story is produced frequently by local theaters and, occasionally, by opera companies.
Stephen Joshua Sondheim (b. March 22, 1930) is widely seen as his generation's leading writer of the stage musical. Described by Frank Rich in The New York Times as "the greatest and perhaps best-known artist in the American musical theater," he is one of the few people to win an Academy Award, multiple Tony Awards (seven, more than any other composer), multiple Grammy Awards, and a Pulitzer Prize. His most famous scores include (as composer/lyricist) A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Company, A Little Night Music, Follies, Sweeney Todd, Into the Woods, and Sunday in the Park with George, as well as the lyrics for West Side Story and Gypsy.
Stephen Sondheim was born to Herbert and Janet ("Foxy") Sondheim, in New York City, New York, and grew up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and later on a farm in Pennsylvania. Herbert was a dress manufacturer and Foxy designed the dresses. While his mother had grown up in an Orthodox Jewish family, Sondheim had no formal religious education or association, did not have a Bar Mitzvah, and reportedly did not set foot in a synagogue until he was 19. An only child of well-to-do parents living in a high-rise apartment on Central Park West, Sondheim's childhood has been portrayed as isolated and emotionally neglected in Meryl Secrest's biography, Sondheim: A Life.
Sondheim traces his interest in theater to Very Warm for May, a Broadway musical he saw at the age of nine. "The curtain went up and revealed a piano," Sondheim recalled. "A butler took a duster and brushed it up, tinkling the keys. I thought that was thrilling."
When Stephen was 10 years old, his father Herbert, a distant figure in Stephen's life, abandoned him and his mother. Under the laws of the day, Sondheim's mother retained full custody. Unfortunately for young Stephen, he saw his mother "Foxy Sondheim" as narcissistic, emotionally abusive, and a hypochondriac. Stephen "famously despised" Foxy; he once wrote a thank-you note to close friend Mary Rodgers that read, "Dear Mary and Hank, Thanks for the plate, but where was my mother's head? Love, Steve." When Foxy died on September 15th 1993, Sondheim refused to attend her funeral.....