Lonny Price on "West Side Story": "It's the story of many young people"

Since "West Side Story" celebrated its premiere in 1957, the musical has been an integral part of the stage.

Lonny Price on "West Side Story": "It's the story of many young people"

Since "West Side Story" celebrated its premiere in 1957, the musical has been an integral part of the stage. Now the creative team around director Lonny Price is sending a new production around the world. In an interview with ntv.de, the 63-year-old explains his fascination with the piece.

It's been around 65 years since the musical "West Side Story" premiered on New York's Broadway. To this day, the story of two rival street gangs and a pair of lovers who have to defy all conventions is one of the most successful musicals in the world. The melodies by Leonard Bernstein, the lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and the choreography by Jerome Robbins redefined the genre back then. It wasn't until 2021 that Steven Spielberg brought "West Side Story" back to the screen and even won an Oscar with it.

At the same time, a new production of the stage play was worked on for a long period of time in order to send it around the world shortly. A creative team of international artists came together for this, including choreographer and Robbins student Julio Monge and director Lonny Price. He has been a close friend of the Bernstein family for 40 years, as he told ntv.de in the summer as part of the "West Side Story" auditions in New York.

"All this warmth that you hear in this music reflects Leonard Bernstein, who was passionate, warm, funny and full of life. (...) He was an insatiable human being. And he was a generous, kind and very loving one man who has treated me very kindly all my life," recalls Price, 63, of the famous composer and conductor.

The story of "West Side Story" is well known thanks to Shakespeare. The US Jets and the Puerto Rican Sharks fight each other on the streets of New York's Upper West Side. In this hostile atmosphere, however, a very great love also develops, namely that between Tony and Maria. A love that shouldn't be. Together, the two must overcome dangerous obstacles - and tragically fail.

"It's one of the best scores ever written, maybe even the best ever written for the theater," Price continued. "It's the best choreography ever done for the theater. The story is exceptional and of course based on 'Romeo and Juliet'. So it's a beautifully conceived and staged production." And a story that - unfortunately - is still relevant today.

"It's the story of many young people. When they're not fighting a gang, they're fighting their parents who don't allow them to do what they want to do or be who they want to be. Kids have one A lot of fear and fighting. So I think that if they can't be with someone because of a cultural difference, they can relate to this story very well. Unfortunately, that still exists in the world," says Lonny Price, explaining the enduring fascination for the musical, which keeps finding new fans across all national borders.

And so the new production of "West Side Story" will soon be sent into the world. In addition to Germany, the musical will also be making stops in France, Ireland and Asia. A great responsibility, as Lonny Price thinks. "But anyway, you feel a great responsibility for something you love and have always had in your life. 'West Side Story' is part of my DNA. I grew up with it. (...) We try with this production "To position West Side Story to resonate with people the way it resonated with us."

It starts on December 16 with the premiere in Munich, followed in Germany by performances in Essen, Baden-Baden, Leipzig and Düsseldorf, among others. All dates and tickets are available here.