I never wanted to be a performer, as much as I live for the arts. There is one exception to that statement. To me the ultimate cool thing, is to dance in West Side Story, It doesn't matter if I'm a Shark or Jet.
National Public Radio presented a special about the making of West Side Story, and it being the 50 year anniversary of its Broadway Opening. That radio show had me mesmorized, This Youtube video shows a cast reunion of the 1957 Broadway show.
Start with book by Arthur Laurents, music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Soundheim, directed and choreographed by Jerome Robbins and produced by Harold Prince. That is an artistic dream team. Add a story based on Romeo and Juliet.
The cast had to all dance, act and sing on a high level. Carol Lawrence was an unknown actress. She was auditioned 13 times for the Maria part. Due to that the unions created the "Carol Lawrence Law". It is against the law to have more than three auditions on Broadway for free. Chita Rivera who went on to become Broadway's greatest dancer, was an 11 year on stage overnight sensation, She married one of the lead male dancers. Tony was played by Larry Kert who died of AIDS in 1991.
The cast was divided by gang. No socialization between gangs was allowed. The different groups had different audition times. Their rest places were covered with articles about gand warfare. During the Jets and Sharks dance, they were never on stage together, until actual performance. The Jets authentically were startled by their entrance.
What is little known, is Arthur Laurents was planning this since 1949 with Jerome Robbins. The original idea was for it to be "East Side Story," centered around a Jew and Catholic. With Puerto Ricans arriving to New York in a wave of immigrations, the changes were made; it moved to the West side, and became about Italians and Puerto Ricans.
What is important about West Side Story, is that the project was about artistic integrity; not about celebrity or profit. It didn't even make money until the movie came out.RENEGADE EYE