The creators of West Side Story arrived at music theatre from the worlds of classical music, dance and drama. Their common dream was to create the perfect musical, one that merged the three forms of artistic presentation – music, dance and prose – into a wonderful whole, the like of which had never before been seen on the stages of Broadway. The text frames the production, dance is its beating heart and music is its soul.
This masterpiece will be performed at the Erkel Theatre by the outstanding artists of the Hungarian State Opera. The timeless message of the story exposes grave social problems through the story of lovers kept apart by the loathing of others. The eternal fable challenges us to stop and think, but does not take sides. It shocks but does not judge.
The performance is produced with special permission from Music Theatre International (421 West 54th St, New York, NY 10019, tel: 212-541-4684, www.MTIShows.com). All authorised performance materials are also supplied by MTI.
A tale of two summer days in 1950's New York
In a poor neighborhood on Manhattan's West Side, tensions are running high, with frequent clashes erupting between rival gangs. The local "American" boys, the Jets, are attempting to hold and defend their territory from the Sharks, a gang made up of recent arrivals from Puerto Rico. Sergeant Krupke has had enough of the disturbances; the youths are creating too much work for him. He tries to enlist the Jets on his side, hoping that together they can more easily sweep the area clean of the outsiders.
The Jets, however, decide to challenge the Sharks to a final showdown in order to settle once and for all the question of who will get to control the little cluster of city blocks both gangs consider to be their own. Riff, leader of the Jets, is planning to challenge Bernardo, head of the Sharks, to a fight at the dance that night.
Riff first seeks out his old friend Tony, one of the original founders of the Jets, who now works at Doc's Store. Tony has reformed and dropped out of the gang, so at first he is hesitant to get involved, but eventually promises to be there at the dance.
At the dance that night, Maria and Tony fall in love with each other at first sight. Bernardo can't stand seeing Tony approach Maria and sends his sister home with Chino, whom her family has arranged for her to marry. Riff and Bernardo agree to hold a war council at Doc's Store after the party.
Later that same night, the young lovers meet again at Maria's apartment, and Tony promises her that he'll meet Maria at the bridal shop after work the next day. No sooner has Tony left than the Sharks arrive, debating where life is better: here in "America" or back home in Puerto Rico.
That same night, the two gangs meet at Doc's Store to settle the details for the final showdown. After arriving late, Tony talks them out of using dangerous weapons, instead proposing to have one member from each gang fight it out with their bare fists. Sergeant Krupke interrupts the negotiations, first chasing off the Sharks, and then the Jets when they won't reveal when and where the battle will take place. Tony remains alone with Doc, and tells him where he's been that evening, and that he's in love.
After work the next day, Tony and Maria meet again in the bridal shop and enter into a secret engagement. Maria asks Tony to stop the fight.
At the last minute, Tony shows up at the scene of the brawl. Bernardo attempts to provoke Tony into fighting, but Tony just wants to make peace. Bernardo attacks Tony, humiliating him. Unable to stomach this sight, Riff pulls a knife and comes after Bernardo. Tony steps between them, causing Riff to draw back. Bernardo takes advantage of this opportunity and stabs Riff. Without thinking, Tony kills Bernardo.
Meanwhile, Maria is at home, cheerfully awaiting Tony's return. But it's not Tony who appears first. Instead, it's Chino, who brings the bad news that Tony has killed Bernardo. Maria breaks down, but when Tony appears shortly thereafter, she forgives him and asks him not to turn himself in to the police, but to spend the night with her instead.
At the same time, the Jets are huddled in the street, not daring to return home. A-rab and Baby John, filled with terror, recall the events of the last few hours.
At dawn, Anita, completely crushed by the loss of Bernardo, knocks on Maria's door. Tony escapes through the window, but not before he and Maria agree that he'll wait for her at Doc's Drugstore. Anita tells Maria that Chino intends to get even with Tony. Officer Krupke arrives to get a statement from Maria, and so Anita goes to Doc's Store to warn Tony in her place.
In the store, however, the Jets pounce on Anita and shove her around, causing the enraged girl to lie that Chino has found out everything and shot Maria. Doc takes the news of Maria's death to Tony, who is hiding in the basement. Tony rushes out into the street. Bellowing, he searches for Chino, so that Chino can kill him as well. Just as he catches sight of Maria, Chino shoots him in the back. He dies in Maria's arms.