What’s Happening to the Kids of West Side Story?


In an article entitled ‘West Side’ Substitutes today’s New York Post outed the Broadway musical’s cast as a bunch of Simon Birches: “The $14 million production has been plagued by absenteeism: At some performances as many as five actors, including some of the leads, have been out.” The worst offender? Karen Olivio, who won a Tony Award for her work as Anita back in June. The Post says that things have gotten so bad that last week the revival’s director, 91-year-old stage vet Arthur Laurents, had to step in and instruct his cast to “get their acts together or find another line of work.”

After the jump, we look at Jerome Robbin’s classic film adaptation to figure out what’s going on. Our diagnosis? Maybe performing in this musical night after night is just too physically and emotionally intense for anyone to take.

Breathtaking aerial shot of the Upper West Side. It’s all good in the hood.

The Jets! And they’re ready to brawl! Vigorous snapping and pirouettes make this opening dance sequence physically strenuous and seriously risky.

Tony and Maria see each other across the room, dance, and despite the fact that they’re associated with rival gangs, fall in love at first sight. This will lead to extremely dangerous behavior like scaling fire escapes, randomly bursting into love songs, and engaging in knife fights.

The Jets rumble with the Sharks; Tony tries to stop the fight but Riff refuses to back down from Bernardo. Blades are drawn and Riff gets stabbed because Tony is trying to hold him back. Tony kills Bernardo in a fit of rage.

Tony confirms to Maria that he has killed her brother. She beats on his chest until he calms her down and convinces her that they need to run away together.

Anita flips out on Maria for being with Tony and sings a song about it. Then Maria sings her a song, and she understands. She warns Maria that Chino has a gun and is on the lookout for Tony.

Tony thinks Maria’s dead. Just as Tony sees that she’s really alive, Chino shoots him. Maria holds Tony as he dies and sings a song. She grabs for the gun, but realizes that she doesn’t want to shoot anyone. The feud between the Jets and Sharks is over, but Maria is left bereft and completely alone in the world. (Until she gets to relive it all again in the evening performance.)