Delve Into the Star-Crossed Love of West Side Story 

Inspired by William Shakespeare’s tragic play about Romeo and Juliet, West Side Story touches on many of the same themes such as forbidden love, defying stereotypes, and tribal barriers/family feuding. Unlike the Shakespearian setting of Verona, Italy, West Side Story takes place in a multi-racial, blue-collar section of the Upper West Side of Manhattan in New York City during a time of gang rivalry in the 1950s. 

The first Broadway performance of this American musical opened at the Winter Garden Theatre on September 26, 1957. Music for this masterpiece was by Leonard Bernstein and the lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. 

While the themes may be similar, the backdrop and style of music are vastly different in West Side Story from its earlier counterpart Romeo and Juliet. Let’s delve into the storyline and backdrops that can help your performance shine. 

The Tragedy of West Side Story

This modern twist on Romeo and Juliet is set in NYC during the 1950s, during a time of great gang upheaval. Two teenage gangs in particular – the Jets and the Sharks – compete for dominance in the New York neighborhood as law enforcement tries to keep control. 

In the middle of the violence, a love blossoms between Tony, former member of the Jets, and Maria, the sister of the leader of the Sharks. The story of the forbidden love follows a similar route as Romeo and Juliet as they find that their gangs can not accept the love match. The performance follows this love affair and is known for its exceptional choreography and lyrics that make the audience understand the tragedy that is unfolding right before their eyes. 

The production was nominated for six Tony Awards, including Best Musical, in 1958, winning two. To make your performance an award-winning, audience-pleasing show, consider some of the more than 25 backdrops that can make your show spring to life. Being set in NYC, many of the backdrops show a classic look of the Big Apple including scenes that are near bridges, at night under the stars, in back alleys, and on the streets of the city that never sleeps. 

Backdrops for West Side Story

New York Street Backdrop
New York Street Backdrop

This New York Street Backdrop #2512 shows the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York City featuring an elevated train, the George Washington Bridge and the skyline of New York in the background.

AlleyCreate a gang hideout and hangout with this Alley Backdrop #1801 which shows a back alley with trash strewn about and an old sofa. It also includes a fence and hanging laundry.

Another gang hideout under the bridge is perfectly shown in this Under the Bridge Backdrop #1435. It depicts the underside of an elevated highway or elevated train showing steel supports and buildings. 

Explore the full inventory of West Side Story backdrops on our site and get started planning your stage for your performance.