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Rising Star Project: West Side Story

Jul 11 – Jul 13, 2019

Public Performances: July 12 & 13

Matinee Performance for Invited Student Groups: July 11 (Contact for information)

Music by Leonard Bernstein
Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Book by Arthur Laurents
Based on conception of Jerome Robbins
Directed by Kelsey Thorgalsen

The 5th Avenue Theatre's Rising Star Project offers students the chance to develop professional skills through the process of producing and performing a musical on The 5th Avenue Theatre mainstage.

Beyond being entirely student performed, the 2018/19 Rising Star Project production of West Side Story will be run by a student technical crew and supported by a team of students who have taken on roles in the marketing, development, producing, creative, and casting departments. All participants are trained and mentored by dedicated theater professionals at The 5th Avenue Theatre.

Revel in the transcendent majesty of storytelling at its finest. The 5th Avenue Theatre is calling on the full breadth and depth of its artistic resources to stage an unforgettable production of West Side Story. This is musical theater as only The 5th can do it: with a cast of 40 of the finest performers ever to grace our stage, a 25-piece orchestra and the highest levels of talent and artistic dedication bar none. The dancing will bring you to the edge of your seat; the music will resonate deep in your soul; the story will lift you to the heights of passion. Do not miss this show.

Rising Star Project: West Side Story is proudly sponsored by
The Sheri and Les Biller Family Foundation

With additional support from
Rex and Angela Bates • The Hearst Foundations • Jolene McCaw Family Foundation • Potelco, Inc. • RealNetworks Foundation • The Sabrina Roberts Memorial Fund • The Herman and Faye Sarkowsky Charitable Foundation • Schultz Family Foundation • Susie and Phil Stoller

Michael Amend and Jeffrey Ashley • Bob and Clodagh Ash • The Casey Family • Linda and Kevin Cheung - Start It! Foundation • Rob Denbrook • Gary Fuller and Randy Everett • GM Nameplate • The Jean K. Lafromboise Foundation • Judith Lybecker • Claudia and Bob Nelson • Bob and Annette Parks • Seattle Rotary Service Foundation • Elizabeth and Gary Sundem • Becca and Bill Wert • H.S. Wright III and Kate Janeway

Rising Star Project: West Side Story

Performance Date

West Side Story

West Side Story is an American version of Romeo and Juliet and it follows the play’s plot very closely. While Shakespeare’s tale concerns feuding aristocratic families in 15th Century Verona, West Side Story’s creators (music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, book by Arthur Laurents, choreography by Jerome Robbins) focus on a clash between second-generation Americans and newly-arrived Puerto Ricans in 1950s New York.

Adult Language:

There is a little vulgar language, but it is very mild.  Lt. Schrank, for instance, threatens to “beat the crap out of every one of you and then run you in!” 

The conflict between the characters is fueled by racial prejudice, which is illustrated by the racist language used. Lieutenant Schrank, the cop on the beat, is openly racist in his remarks to the Sharks, the Puerto Rican gang (“Boy what you Puerto Ricans have done to this neighborhood.” “Get your trash out of here!” To the Jets: “I gotta put up with them and so do you!”). Later at Doc’s Candy Store, Schrank will be even more explicit: “Clear out, Spics. Sure it’s a free country and I ain’t got the right. But it’s a country with laws: and I can find the right. I got the badge, you got the skin. It’s tough all over. Beat it!”  When the Jets refuse to cooperate with Lt. Schrank, he shouts, “You oughta be taken down to the station house and have your skulls mashed to pulp! You and the tin horn immigrant scum you came from!”

The Jets complain that the Puerto Ricans are “ruinin’ free enterprise.” Bernardo and the sharks, on the other hand, point out that Tony is a “Polack”: “The mother of Tony was born in Poland; Tony was born in America, so that makes him an American. But us? Foreigners! Lice! Cockroaches!” The war council between the Jets and the Sharks escalates into racial epithets: “Move where you’re wanted!” “Back where ya came from!” “Spics!” “Micks!” “Wop!”

Sexual References:

These are implied rather than explicit. Anybodys, a girl and a wanna-be Jet, pleads: “How about me gettin’ in the gang now?” A-rab responds: “How about the gang gettin’ in – ahhh, who’d wanta?” Later when she makes fun of Baby John (“You let him be a Jet!”), he responds, “Ah, go walk the streets like ya sister.” Trying to taunt the Jets into giving him information about the coming rumble, Lt. Schrank asks one of them, “How’s the action on your mother’s mattress, Action?”

Maria pleads with Anita to lower the neck of her gown: “It is now to be dress for dancing, no longer for kneeling in front of an altar.”  Anita replies, “With those boys, you can start out dancing and end up kneeling.”  When Anita says Puerto Ricans came to America “ready, eager, with our hearts open,” Consuela echoes, “Our arms open -” and her boyfriend counters, “You came with your pants open.”

Anita, waiting for Bernardo to return from the rumble, sings, “He’ll walk in hot and tired / So what? / Don’t matter if he’s tired / As long he’s hot / Tonight!”

After the Sharks and the Jets rumble, Tony and Maria meet in Maria’s bedroom; they kiss and embrace and the lights go down.  Later they are seen asleep in the bed (there is no nudity).


The “Jet Song” observes that “When you’re a Jet, / You’re a Jet all the way / From your first cigarette / To your last dyin’ day.”

In the song “Gee Officer Krupke,” the Jets derisively claim that their delinquency is a result of their upbringing: “Our mothers all are junkies / Our fathers all are drunks / Golly Moses – Natcherly we’re punks! . . . Dear kindly judge, your honor / My parents treat me rough / With all their marijuana / They won’t give me a puff. / They didn’t wanna have me / But somehow I was had. / Leapin’ lizards – that’s why I’m so bad!” In a mocking confession to an “analyst,” another Jet declares, “My grandpa’s always plastered / My grandma pushes tea” (marijuana).


Like Romeo and Juliet, West Side Story begins with a brawl between rival gangs, the Jets and the Sharks; the fighting is stylized and choreographed.

Two characters die in a knife fight, and a third is shot and killed; the deaths occur onstage.

In the “taunting scene,” Anita, Bernardo’s girlfriend is insulted (“Bernardo’s tramp!” “Lyin’ spic!”); she is pushed, jeered at, and forced to lunge for her shawl. The attempted rape that ensues is highly stylized and choreographed rather than being depicted graphically or realistically; there is no nudity, no explicitly sexual gestures and no overt violence.