A pre-Broadway engagement will play Dec. 16, 2008-Jan. 17, 2009, at Washington, DC's National Theatre, where the musical made its world premiere in 1957.
The production "will introduce the unprecedented element of selectively weaving Spanish throughout both the book and songs," according to a July 16 announcement.
Laurents, who earned solid reviews (and a 2008 Tony nomination) for staging the current Broadway run of Gypsy, stated, "This show will be radically different from any other production of West Side Story ever done. The musical theatre and cultural conventions of 1957 made it next to impossible for the characters to have authenticity. Every member of both gangs was always a potential killer even then. Now they actually will be. Only Tony and Maria try to live in a different world…"
West Side Story has music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and a book by Laurents. The staging will retain the original choreography of late director Jerome Robbins, who conceived the project by using Romeo and Juliet as inspiration. As previously announced, the Robbins choreography will be restaged by Tony Award nominee Joey McKneely (The Boy from Oz, The Life). This West Side Story will have an onstage cast of 37 and 30 musicians in the orchestra pit.
"West Side Story transports the achingly beautiful tale of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet to the turbulent streets of the Upper West Side in 1950's New York City," according to the producers. "Two star-crossed lovers, Tony and Maria, find themselves caught between the rival street gangs of different ethnic backgrounds, the 'Jets' and the 'Sharks.' Their struggle to exist together in a world of violence, hate and prejudice is one of the most heart-breaking, relevant and innovative musical masterpieces of our time."
Its landmark status has to do with its serious subject matter, and its sophisticated integration of dance, song and book.
The Bernstein and Sondheim score features such classics of the American musical theatre as "Something's Coming," "Tonight," "America," "I Feel Pretty" and "Somewhere."
Robbins won the Tony Award for his groundbreaking choreography, and Oliver Smith took home the prize for Best Scenic Design. It was nominated as Best Musical but lost to The Music Man.
Casting information and onsale date for tickets will be announced at a later date.
West Side Story ran for 732 performances before launching national and international tours and a run at London's Majesty Theatre in 1958. It played a brief "return engagement" on Broadway in fall 1960.
The first New York City revival of the musical opened on April 8, 1964 at New York City Center by the New York City Center Light Opera Company. The production closed on May 3, 1964 after a limited engagement of 31 performances. The City Center production was staged by Gerald Freedman based on Robbins' original concept.
A Broadway revival opened at the Minskoff Theatre on Feb. 14, 1980, directed and choreographed by Robbins with the assistance of Tom Abbott and Lee Becker Theodore. The revival was nominated for a 1980 Tony Award for Best Revival as well as nods for Debbie Allen as Anita and Josie de Guzman as Maria.
The motion picture, directed by Jerome Robbins and Robert Wise, was released in 1961 and starred Natalie Wood and Richard Beymer. The film won ten Academy Awards out of its eleven nominated categories (including Best Picture) as well as a special award for Robbins.