Revisiting the West Side

West Side Story is magnificently reborn on Broadway and Charles Kaiser attends, rubbing elbows with theater royalty including writer-director Arthur Laurents, Kathleen Turner, and Lauren Bacall.

BY Charles Kaiser

March 19 2009 11:00 PM ET

The most vibrant
musical portrait of 20th-century Manhattan ever written was
magnificently reborn last night on the stage of the Palace
Theatre as
West Side Story

once again took Broadway by storm.

This superb new
production is directed by the tireless 91-year-old Arthur
Laurents, who also wrote the book for this gem from 1957.
Almost everything here is better than it was in the original,
including the new bilingual songs and dialogue, the spectacular
new sets by James Youmans, and even the very slightly tweaked
Leonard Bernstein score, which has always been the glowing
heart of this creation.

A week ago
West Side

was already a huge commercial success, with an advance sale of
$14 million -- the largest ever for a Broadway revival.

Created by four gay
Jewish men -- collaborating with Laurents and
Bernstein on the musical were lyricist Stephen Sondheim and
choreographer Jerome Robbins --
West Side

remains the unsurpassed creation of gay American culture in the
1950s, although its collaborators have always insisted that
their understanding of prejudice was more informed by their
Jewishness than by their sexuality.

Tags: Theater

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