A Song Like That: Collaborators Reconsider Spanish Lyrics in West Side Story

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25 Aug 2009

<I>West Side Story</I> stars Josefina Scaglione and Matt Cavenaugh
West Side Story stars Josefina Scaglione and Matt Cavenaugh
Photo by Joan Marcus

Producers of the Tony Award-nominated revival of West Side Story announced Aug. 25 that slight lyric changes were implemented into the production at Broadway's Palace Theatre on Aug. 20.

Two songs that had been performed in Spanish since the show's opening — "A Boy Like That" ("Un Hombre Asi"), sung by Tony winner Karen Olivo, and "I Feel Pretty" ("Siento Hermosa"), led by Tony nominee Josefina Scaglione — have been revised.

"'A Boy Like That' is now predominately sung in English to the original lyrics and selected dialogue and lyrics in 'I Feel Pretty' have reverted to English," according to the press announcement.

The Spanish sung by the Sharks in the "Tonight" (Quintet) remains.

The remainder of the score had been delivered with the original Stephen Sondheim lyrics since the show's opening.



In a statement Arthur Laurents, who penned West Side Story's book and directed this production said, "From the outset, the Spanish in West Side Story was an experiment. It's been an ongoing process of finding what worked and what didn't, and it still continues."

The revival of West Side Story, which officially opened at the Palace March 19, had introduced "the unprecedented element of selectively weaving Spanish throughout both the book and songs," according to an earlier announcement.

The cast is led by Matt Cavenaugh (A Catered Affair, Grey Gardens) as Tony, Tony winner Karen Olivo (In the Heights) as Anita, John Arthur Greene as Riff and George Akram ("Stuck on You") as Bernardo. Argentinean actress Josefina Scaglione, who created the role of Amber Von Tussle in the Argentinean production of Hairspray, co-stars as Maria.

The production features scenic design by James Youmans, costumes by Tony Award nominee David C. Woolard, lighting by Tony Award winner Howell Binkley, hair by Mark Adam Rampmeyer and sound design by Tony Award nominee Dan Moses Schreier.

West Side Story has music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and a book by Laurents. The staging retains the original choreography of late director Jerome Robbins, who conceived the project by using Romeo and Juliet as inspiration. The Robbins choreography has been restaged by Tony Award nominee Joey McKneely (The Boy from Oz, The Life).

"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."

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.

West Side Story is produced on Broadway by Kevin McCollum, James L. Nederlander, Jeffrey Seller with Terry Allen Kramer, Sander Jacobs, Roy Furman/Jill Furman Willis, Freddy DeMann, Robyn Goodman/Walt Grossman, Hal Luftig, Roy Miller, The Weinstein Company and Broadway Across America.

Tickets are available by visiting Ticketmaster.com or by calling (212) 307-4100.