I saw a pro-am production of West Side Storyat Parramatta Riverside a month or so back. It was very well done and enjoyable, as far as any production of West Side Storycan be enjoyable, given its sad subject matter. But for some reason this version got me thinking about the updating of Romeo and Julietand certain plot points that maybe don’t quite work.

Shakespeare’s Romeo and Julietworks because the two young lovers are barely teenagers, powerless in the face of their two warring families. You can’t leave your family, but Tony in West Sideis older and has already left his gang-family the Jets. If he is able to leave, then it is his fault that he gets involved with them again, and this choice means he loses star-crossed lover status.

In the play, Juliet meets Romeo and falls in love. Only then does she discover he is a Montague, leading to the famous “wherefore art thou Romeo” speech. In the musical, Maria meets Tony at the dance and knows full well that he is from the opposing gang, because it is pretty easy to tell a Puerto Rican from an all-American gringo. In Romeo and Juliet...

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