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West Side Story poster

Tonight the final touches will be put on the Library?s West Side Story exhibition (thus the headline), which opens tomorrow, Sept. 26, and remains on view in the foyer of the Performing Arts Reading Room (room 113 of the Library?s James Madison Memorial Building) through March 29.

?West Side Story: Birth of a Classic? marks the 50th anniversary of the Broadway debut of this remarkable musical composed by Leonard Bernstein. As the home of the Bernstein Collection (portions of which are accessible online), the Library of Congress has organized a display that will provide viewers with a unique window into the creation of this timeless work.

Items include letters from Bernstein to his wife Felicia regarding the show?s Washington, D.C., debut prior to the Broadway opening. On Aug. 23, 1957, he wrote: ?It sure looks like a smash and all our experiments seem to have worked. The book works, the tragedy works, the ballets shine, the music pulses and soars ? It?s all too good to be true.?

The exhibit also includes never-before-seen photographs by Look magazine photographer Paul Fusco for an unpublished feature spread on Carol Lawrence (the first ?Maria?). When the magazine folded in 1971, the Look Collection was donated to the Library?s Prints & Photographs Division.

The Library and the Signature Theatre will also mark this historic occasion with a special concert ? ?West Side Story at 50? ? which will be held on the evening of Oct. 15 in the Library?s Coolidge Auditorium. For tickets, go to

If you can?t see the exhibition in person, check out the Library?s online exhibitions page at

(Thanks to Audrey Fischer for help writing this post. Poster from original production of West Side Story. New York: Artcraft, 1956. Artcraft Poster Collection, via the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Online Catalog.)

Comments (5)

  1. Wow…I’d like to see this. “West Side Story” is based on Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” – like a lot of films as well. And here’s some trivia for you – Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” music video was inspired by the “rumble” in West Side Story.

  2. Oh ea. West Side Story is my love. I like Shakespeare.

  3. Me too waiting to watch West Side story.
    Heard a lot about it, though being a great admirer of Shakespeare myself.

  4. A Story that everybody knows West Side Story Jets vs Sharks… who hasnt watched it yet i ask sometimes my self. Also my favorite!

  5. West Side Story will forever stay as a central part of american culture and history.

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