Set in the mid-1950s in a multiracial, blue-collar neighborhood on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, the musical explores the rivalry between the Jets and the Sharks, two teenage street gangs of different ethnic backgrounds. Tony, a former member of the white gang Jets and best friend of the gang’s leader, falls in love with Maria, the sister of the leader of the Puerto Rican Sharks.
With its dark theme, sophisticated music, extended dance scenes, and focus on social problems the show marked a turning point in musical theatre.
The original 1957 Broadway production ran for 732 performances before going on tour. The production was nominated for six Tony Awards, including Best Musical, in 1958, winning two.