Tonight Tonight, It's West Side Story Night



First of two documentaries marking the fiftieth anniversary of the opening on September 26th 1957 of a new Broadway show that would change the face of musical theatre forever.

The show was West Side Story, based on Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet and set against gang warfare in the New York ghetto.

Plus how the stage show and the movie musical have continued to influence generations across the world.

Chita Rivera, who originated the role of Anita on Broadway and in London's West End, describes how West Side Story eventually made it to Broadway, in spite of its difficult subject matter, backers pulling out and the arguments over which numbers stayed and which went.

Interviewees include book writer Arthur Laurents; orchestrator Sid Ramin; Jamie and Nina Bernstein, the daughters of Leonard Bernstein; Carol Lawrence, who played the first Maria; and theatre critic John Lahr.

Voices from the archive include Jerome Robbins, and Larry Kert who played Tony and Tommy Abbott who played Gee-tar.

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In the second of two documentaries marking the fiftieth anniversary of the Broadway opening of a new show that would change the face of musical theatre forever, musical star John Barrowman tells the story of how West Side Story has continued to touch people across the world.

After its opening on Broadway, West Side Story took on a whole new life as a multi award-winning movie classic that still resonates with audiences today.

Since then, the concept has been taken into opera houses, used to help community relations, performed in prisons and drawn on by performers as diverse as Cher and Alice Cooper.

Contibutors include George Chakiris, who played Bernardo; Rita Moreno, who played Anita in the film; Marni Nixon, who dubbed the singing voice of Natalie Wood; Sid Ramin, who won an Oscar for his orchestrations; Humphrey Burton, Bernstein's biographer; book writer Arthur Laurents; and Freddie Gershon who is in charge of licensing productions of West Side Story around the world.

Voices from the archive include the film's co-director Robert Wise and Leonard Bernstein