‘West Side Story’: 61 years old and still as relevant as today’s headlines

CU Eklund Opera presents Bernstein’s masterpiece

By Peter Alexander Oct. 25 at 12:15 p.m.

Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story opened on Broadway just over 61 years ago — Sept. 26, 1957 — but for Leigh Holman, the story does not get old.


West Side Story cast members Christine Honein as Maria and Patrick Bessenbecher as Tony. Photo by Glenn Asakawa/University of Colorado.

Holman is the director of the Eklund Opera Program at the CU College of Music, which will be presenting Bernstein’s masterpiece Friday through Sunday, Oct. 26–28. The cast of CU students, freshman though graduate students, will be stage-directed by Holman. Guest conductor Philip Hesketh will lead the singers and student orchestra.

The show is a transplanted version of Romeo and Juliet, with New York street gangs replacing the rival families. The conflict is between immigrants and newer immigrants, the Jets and the Sharks, a white gang and a Puerto Rican gang.

West Side Story has a theme that’s important to talk about right now,” Holman says. “It’s a story about people who are immigrants, and nothing could be more relevant. When someone moves into our area, is in the workplace or in school with us, people who don’t look like us, what sort of fear ignites in us and how do we act upon that?

“To me it sounds like a story from 2018.”

Read more in Boulder Weekly.

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Art by Janalee Robison for CU Presents

West Side Story
By Leonard Bernstein
Book by Arthur Laurents; Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Eklund Opera Theater

7:30 pm. Friday Oct. 26 and Sunday, Oct. 27
2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 28
Macky Auditorium


3 thoughts on “‘West Side Story’: 61 years old and still as relevant as today’s headlines

  1. I’m singing ‘I Feel Pretty’ this weekend, one of my favourite songs is One Hand One Heart I always wanted to be Maria but as a fair skinned blonde I was usually cast as a Jet but there were no strong female Jets so I preferred singing in the Sharks.
    It’s a good choice.

    • It’s true: You do not look like a Maria. 😀 And yes the Sharks get a lot of great music! Those in particular are great songs—although Sondheim said that they lyrics for “I feel pretty” was a big mistake on his part, because it is too sophisticated for the kind of character he intended to create for Maria. The internal rhymes, and clever word play in English were not characteristic of a Puerto Rican (or more properly Newyorican, if you know that term) working girl. I acknowledge his regret, but I still love the song!

  2. Hi, Peter. I resigned my position at Ars Nova Tuesday Oct. 23. Would you kindly remove me from your mailing list? Thanks.

    -Chip Ross

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