West Side Story no longer bilingual; Fez hat dance scene cut from Bye Bye Birdie

The bilingual West Side Story revival, which incorporated “the unprecedented element of selectively weaving Spanish throughout both the book and songs,” is reverting back to English.

This week, two songs that had previously been performed in Spanish – “A Boy Like That” (“Un Hombre Asi”) and “I Feel Pretty” (“Siento Hermosa”) are now being delivered mostly in English. The Spanish sung by the Sharks in the “Tonight” quintet is now some of the only Spanish that remains in the show.

Arthur Laurents who wrote and directed the musical said that “from the outset, the Spanish in West Side Story was an experiment. It’s been an ongoing process of finding what worked and what didn’t, and it still continues.”

Another big change is in store for a classic Broadway musical according to Gina Gershon, the actress playing Rose in Broadway’s upcoming production of Bye Bye Birdie. One of the big dance numbers in the show, in which Rose is traditionally chased by a number of men wearing fez hats, has been cut from the production because producers thought it “a little too gang rape-y.” Read the full article here.

I was pretty taken aback by these drastic (and in my opinion, unnecessary) changes. How about you?

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2 thoughts on “West Side Story no longer bilingual; Fez hat dance scene cut from Bye Bye Birdie

  1. This is incredibly disappointing – the scenes spoken in Spanish are meant to authenticate the Sharks’ experience as “outsiders” and immigrants adapting to life in America (this cultural relevancy will never diminish). Even though I don’t speak fluent Spanish I was able to understand the songs; they are classic – why not add translations in the Playbill or provide open captioning for specific seating areas? (Perhaps this is already done but should be more openly advertised) Or, have certain performances remain bilingual?
    In my opinion the one change that should be made is recasting the part of Tony. What a lackluster performance?!


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