When West Side Story opened on Broadway on September 26, 1957, it changed the nature of the American musical and challenged the country’s view of itself. The show dealt seriously with violence, adolescent gangs, and racial prejudice—themes rarely included in musicals—and ended with one of the show’s leads dead on stage. The integration of music, dance, and script and the theatricality of the staging were a revelation to audiences. At a time when most musicals were star vehicles, with separate dancing and singing choruses, West Side Story was cast with relative unknowns who acted, sang, and danced in this exceptionally demanding work. —Library of Congress.
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