According to Michael Riedel of the New York Post, a 90-year-old Arthur Laurents will reportedly direct a 2008 Broadway revival of West Side Story. This will represent the 50th Anniversary of the original production.
Laurents says that the most recent, and short-lived, West Side Story revival was "too white-bread" and that he's come up with a way to make the show more contemporary without changing a word or a note. Laurents then goes on to tell Riedel, "And what will annoy you is that I'm not going to tell you what it is."
Laurents needn't be so coy. Alas, he won't have to work all that hard to make the story resonate with modern audiences. The lessons of West Side Story, and indeed those of its Shakespeare source Romeo and Juliet, are all too relevant today.
Most people think of West Side Story as a classic musical, which indeed it is, but also as an instant hit, which it decidedly was not. It ran a very respectable 732 performances in its initial run, then went off on a national tour, and returned Broadway in 1960 for another 249 performances. It even lost the Tony Award for Best Musical to The Music Man. It wasn't until the hit movie came out in 1961 and swept the Oscars that the musical really captured the public's attention.
I'm thrilled that Laurents will be manning this production, especially given his implied intent to give the show the edge that it requires to be truly effective. Again, the movie was a huge hit, and has now become a sentimental favorite of high-school girls everywhere, and the show has certainly achieved a considerable afterlife in regional productions. But it would be great to have this landmark show achieve blockbuster success where it truly belongs: on the Broadway stage.