Bernstein at rehearsal for West Side Story. Carol Lawrence (who played Maria) is at his left, and lyricist Stephen Sondheim is playing the piano, 1957.(Library of Congress)

West Side Story debuted on Broadway just over fifty years ago. While the show is not generally considered part of the Jewish musical theater pantheon (like, say, Hello, Dolly, or Fiddler on the Roof), theater critic and Columbia University professor of journalism Alisa Solomon argues that perhaps it should be.

As originally written by Arthur Laurents (who was later awarded a Tony for his direction of La Cage aux Folles), West Side Story portrayed an ill-fated romance between a Jewish girl and a Catholic fellow. Solomon talks to us about how, with music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, and direction and choreography by Jerome Robbins, it came to be the musical we know today, and about its legacy, both in terms of form and content.