April 25, 2023

A pop culture phenomenon

Inspired by Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, West Side Story is a timeless classic that has enticed audiences since its debut on Broadway in 1957. The show was an instant hit, running for 732 performances before going on tour. it took home two Tony Awards, and has received two notable film adaptations. Over time, West Side Story has become a cultural phenomenon, inspiring numerous adaptations, parodies, and tributes across various forms of media. Get ready to rumble as we dive into some of the many ways this musical has left its mark on pop culture.

The beloved animated fairytale, Shrek (2001), gives a subtle nod to West Side Story in a dance sequence by Monsieur Hood and his Merry Men. In the midst of an attempt to save Fiona from a green beast, he takes a quick dance break to introduce himself. With the help of his Merry Men, Monsieur Hood performs an animated riverdance that includes the familiar West Side Story-style snapping. Little did they know, it was the princess they needed to keep an eye on, not the ogre.

Shrek (2001) - Princess vs Merry Men Scene (6/10) | Movieclips

The fourth installment of the Bring It On film series, Bring It On: In It To Win It (2007) is not subtle while paying homage to the musical. Carson and Penn are two star-crossed lovers who compete in two rival cheerleading squads — the West Coast Sharks and the East Coast Jets. If the names were not obvious enough, the two squads compete in a "cheer-rumble" reminiscent of the rumble between the Jets and the Sharks in West Side Story.

In It To Win It: Cheer Off | Bring It On (2007) | Screen Bites

Musical fans are sure to remember Ariana Debose's recent medley-filled monologue with SNL icon Kate McKinnon, but this throwback from 1996 is one of our favorite West Side Story-themed sketches from the show. Featuring host Robert Downey Jr. and the late, great Norm MacDonald, this sketch hilariously pokes fun at the absurdity of street gang members breaking out into song and dance.

Cobra & Panthers - SNL

It's not immediately clear how singing "I Feel Pretty" while holding up traffic on a busy bridge can reduce anxiety, but Dr. Buddy Rydell, played by Jack Nicholson, from Anger Management (2003) is convinced otherwise. This is exactly what he asks of his patient, Dave Buznik, played by Adam Sandler, after expressing that he is flustered. There must not be anything better than admiring such a pretty face, such a pretty dress, such a pretty smile, such a pretty me!

Anger Management: I Feel Pretty (HD CLIP)

As part of an ABC television special, Cher... Special, American singer/actress Cher gives an iconic 15 minute production of West Side Story. Her medley became a cult classic as she fully commits to the performance, playing each and every role in costume. While the TV special originally aired in 1978, it was most recently brought back to life after a soundbite from the show went viral on TikTok.

Cher - West Side Story (Official Video)

Curious about the source material? Get your tickets now to see the real thing, with a full orchestra, on stage at Lyric June 2 - 25, 2023.

June 02 - 25, 2023

West Side Story

West Side Story

Tony and Maria are wide-eyed teenagers from two communities in conflict, who fall in love. As their friends and family battle with one another, Tony and Maria long for "a place for us...somewhere." Their songs illuminate every scene and permeate our culture, from the romance of "Maria" and "Tonight" to the exuberance of "America" and the humor of "Gee, Officer Krupke." Add to that the bold, sexy, iconic choreography of Jerome Robbins that smolders and sizzles with energy, and you have a timeless musical theater experience you'll never forget.

Header photo: The company of Lyric's 2018/19 Season production of West Side Story.
Credit: Todd Rosenberg