Full Synopsis

Full Synopsis

Act One

Tensions rise in a crumbling Upper West Side neighborhood of late 1950s New York City as rival gangs, the native Jets and the Puerto Rican Sharks, jockey for control of the streets ("Prologue"). The Jets are led by Riff, who is a natural leader: he's charismatic, driven, and intelligent, with a dash of wackiness. Diesel is his lieutenant, and other members of the gang include Baby John (the youngest), A-rab (an explosive little ferret), Action (a catlike ball of fury), and Big Deal (a bespectacled, self-styled expert).

Bernardo, the Puerto Rican leader of the Sharks, is sardonic, handsome, fluid, and has
a chip on his shoulder. When the Jets show him disrespect, he shows it right back, and the challenges escalate over time until the Sharks catch A-rab alone. Bernardo marks A-Rab, forcibly piercing his ear. At the sound of a whistle from the lookout, the Jets tear onstage to rescue A-rab, and an all-out brawl ensues, only ending at the arrival of Officer Krupke, a big, goon-like cop, and lieutenant Schrank. Schrank demands to know which one of the Sharks marked A-rab, making it clear he's tired of the two gangs brawling and doesn't want the Puerto Ricans in his neighborhood, but neither side will give up the information. He has no choice but to let them all go. Bernardo and the Sharks leave, and Schrank tells Riff that he expects the Jets to get along with the Sharks or else he'll round up the lot of them - he has no intention of being demoted to a traffic cop.

Schrank and Officer Krupke leave, and the Jets immediately make fun of them: Snowboy is the first to perform an unflattering imitation. The Jets line up for roll call and commiserate about how the Sharks have affected their neighborhood. Action is demanding that the gang do something about the Sharks when Anybodys, a scrawny teenage girl, makes her way through the gang to brag about her role in the fight. She asks to be accepted into the gang, but the Jets don't take her seriously and send her on her way. Annoyed, she spits - cautiously - and makes her exit.

Riff gathers the Jets and suggests a rumble - an all-out fight between the two gangs - to decide who controls the neighborhood. Riff would prefer a fair fist fight, but he's not opposed to choosing weapons if the Sharks want it that way, and he wants Tony as his lieutenant. Though some of the Jets grumble that Tony isn't part of the gang anymore, Riff is willing to vouch for his best friend ("Jet Song"). The Jets decide to challenge Bernardo that evening at the dance at the gym.

Later, Riff goes to Doc's drugstore, where Tony works, to ask Tony about the rumble. Tony refuses at first, citing a feeling that something big and important is coming for him. Eventually, Riff convinces him, using their deep friendship and the gang's bond as collateral (and the fact that he already promised the Jets Tony would attend). With a grin, Tony agrees, and Riff exits after wondering aloud if Tony will find whatever he's waiting for at the dance. Tony ponders this idea ("Something's Coming").

Meanwhile, in a bridal shop, Bernardo's sister Maria and his girlfriend, Anita, work on Maria's dress for the upcoming dance . Maria is young, excitable, and enthusiastic, with

a stubborn streak and an inner strength. Anita, sharply intelligent and worldly, has no problem saying exactly how she feels. Maria is frustrated: she's only been in America for a month and wonders why Bernardo has brought her there if only to work in the bridal shop
and sit at home at night. Anita retorts that he brought Maria to America to wed Chino, his fellow Shark, but Maria confesses that she feels nothing for Chino.

At the dance hall, Jets, Sharks, Jet Girls, and Shark Girls dance the jitterbug ("The Dance at the Gym Blues"). Riff and Bernardo try to discuss terms for the rumble but are interrupted by Glad Hand, the event's emcee. He is accompanied by Officer Krupke.

Glad Hand insists the dancers arrange themselves in two circles, boys on the outside and girls on the inside, in hopes of mixing up the two gangs. The dancers move in a circle with the music, but when it stops, instead of dancing with the girl in front of him, Bernardo reaches for Anita. Likewise, Riff passes over a Shark Girl to dance with Velma, his girlfriend, and Glad Hand's experiment has failed ("Mambo"). A dance-off develops between Bernardo and Anita and Riff and Velma. Meanwhile, Tony and Maria spot each other across the dance floor and are immediately smitten. Tony realizes that meeting Maria is the unnamed entity he's felt coming for so long. They share a brief moment before Bernardo interrupts them, warning Tony away, who is shocked to discover that Maria is Bernardo's sister. Bernardo insists that Chino escort Maria home, and Tony overhears her name for the first time. Bernardo agrees to meet Riff for a war council at Doc's drugstore in a half hour. The Jets rush off to spread the word as Tony retreats into his own world, ruminating on "the most beautiful sound [he's] ever heard" ("Maria").

Finally, Tony arrives at Maria's apartment ("Balcony Scene"). She leans out a window over
a fire escape to talk with him, nervous that at any moment they might be caught but equally thrilled to steal a few moments with him. They sing of their love and devotion to each other, share a first kiss, and realize their lives have just truly begun tonight, now that they've met. Maria's father calls for her from inside, and she insists that Tony go. They agree to meet the next night after sundown at the bridal shop. Tony exits just as Bernardo and Anita return, along with Indio, Pepe, Consuelo, and Rosalia. Consuelo is a brash bottle-blonde, and Rosalia is none too bright. Anita teases Bernardo about his possessiveness when it comes to his sister, and he teases her right back. Chino tries to defend Maria - she was only dancing, after all - but Bernardo is steadfast in his disapproval of her dancing with an American. They discuss the unfairness that Tony - whose parents are Polish immigrants - is considered an "American," whereas they are not. Though their great expectations upon arriving in America may have been dashed, they still dream of returning to Puerto Rico with luxuries like air conditioning, television, king- sized beds, and even a Cadillac.

The boys leave for the war council while Anita, Rosalia, Consuelo, and the Shark Girls compare Puerto Rico to America ("America").

At Doc's, the Jets are restlessly waiting for the Sharks to arrive. Doc tries to talk them out of the rumble, but the Jets pay him no mind, claiming that he doesn't understand their situation. When the Jets start to get riled up, Riff encourages them to calm down and stay cool ("Cool").

Bernardo and the Sharks arrive, and the Jet Girls leave. Doc tries once more to talk them out of fighting, but no one listens, and he leaves.

After the Jets and Sharks argue for a while, each side hurling insults and placing blame
on the other, Bernardo and Riff decide the rumble will take place the next night, after dark, under the highway . They are about to decide on weapons when Tony enters the shop . He convinces them to make it a fair fist fight, with each gang choosing its best man to fight . Bernardo agrees, thinking he will be fighting Tony, but Riff says the Sharks will choose their own man and the Jets will choose theirs .

At a signal from the lookout, the Jets and Sharks intermix, just as Schrank enters the drugstore. He kicks the Sharks out and tries to get the Jets to tell him where the rumble will take place =. When they do not, he gets angry, taunting them, and almost baits Action =. Riff stops him from lunging at Schrank in the nick of time. Riff leaves the shop with the other Jets obediently following him. Schrank exits as well, leaving Doc and Tony alone. Doc realizes that Tony insisted on a fair fight because he is in love with a Puerto Rican girl.

The next afternoon at the bridal shop, Anita and Maria are happy the workday is over. Maria offers to lock up for Anita, but Tony arrives before Anita leaves. Anita does not approve, but she understands that Tony and Maria feel deeply for each other. She leaves, making Maria promise to be home in fifteen minutes.

Maria makes Tony promise to stop the rumble, and, to her surprise, he agrees, promising to come to her later that evening. Maria worries about her parents' approval, and Tony insists they will like him and that his parents will like Maria. The two play, using the dress forms to represent their respective parents and imagining their wedding day. Suddenly, the game becomes serious, and they kneel before an imaginary altar to give their wedding vows ("One Hand, One Heart").

Meanwhile, the Jets and Sharks rev up for the rumble. Anita prepares for Bernardo's return, and Tony and Maria dream of their rendezvous later that evening ("Tonight").

That night, the Jets and Sharks gather under the highway. Bernardo and Diesel will fight, with Chino and Riff as their seconds. Just as the fight is about to begin, Tony leaps over the fence to stop it. Tony is trying to keep his cool, but Riff loses his temper over Bernardo's insults and punches him. Riff and Bernardo each pull out knives. Tony tries to stop them from fighting but is held back by Diesel and Action. Tony breaks free just in time for Riff to gain the upper hand. In a panic, Tony shouts, "Riff, don't!" and Riff's moment of hesitation is enough for Bernardo to break through his defenses and plunge his knife into Riff. Riff falls, dead, and Tony picks up Bernardo's knife and, in a rage, kills Bernardo.

Before anyone can process these events, everyone hears sirens and runs. Tony remains, staring at the two bodies in disbelief. He shouts, "Maria!" in anguish.

From the shadows, Anybodys appears and helps Tony escape.

Act Two

In an apartment, Francisca, Rosalia, and Consuelo wait for the rumble to end. Maria enters dressed to go out, and the other girls assume that she's going out with Chino after the rumble. They laugh when Maria claims it is her wedding night ("I Feel Pretty"). At the end of the song, Chino enters, disheveled. Maria quickly tries to hide her dress under a bathrobe, and the other girls exit into the parlor. Chino takes her hand, trying to tell her that Bernardo has been killed in the rumble, but she interrupts him to ask about Tony. Chino removes her robe, sees that she's dressed to go out, and coldly informs her that Tony killed her brother. He searches the apartment and finds an object wrapped in a shirt, hastily exiting as Maria calls him a liar.

Moments later, Tony climbs through the fire escape window. Maria lunges at him, calling him a killer, but her anger burns out when she realizes that Riff was killed by Bernardo. Tony promises to take her someplace where no one can get to them ("Ballet Sequence").

As they sing, the apartment fades, and the two Lovers escape the violence around them through a dance sequence ("Scherzo"). At the end of the dance, the ensemble comes together and sings ("Somewhere").

Meanwhile, in a back alley, A-rab and Baby John find each other after the chaos of the rumble, and they confirm that no one has seen Tony. When Officer Krupke spots them, they lie, saying they were not at the rumble, but at the playground. When Officer Krupke demands they come down to the station, they trip him and take off running. While he runs off in pursuit, the boys reappear through the fence, and jubilant at outsmarting the cop, and are joined by the other Jets. They recount all the circumstances that made them into delinquents ("Officer Krupke").

After the song, Anybodys finds the rest of the Jets. She's infiltrated the Sharks' territory and has information about Tony: he's involved with Bernardo's sister, and Chino is out to get him. Action sends everyone out in different directions to try and warn Tony.

Later that night, Tony and Maria are asleep in her room, waking when Anita tries to enter. Maria promises to meet Tony at Doc's later that night and leaves out the fire escape. When Maria unlocks the door, Anita goes directly to the window, seeing Tony leave. She is angry with Maria ("A Boy Like That" and "I Have A Love"). Though is it painful for Anita, she understands Maria's love, and warns her that Chino has a gun.

Schrank interrupts them, insisting Maria answer some questions, and Anita agrees to go to Doc's for Maria to let Tony know she will be delayed under the guise of picking up aspirin. At the drugstore, the Jets loiter around on the top floor while Tony and Doc hide in the basement. Anita tries to pass along the message, but the Jets taunt and overwhelm her. Doc interrupts them, saving Anita, and in a fit of rage, she tells them all that Chino has killed Maria.

After Anita leaves, Doc breaks the news to Tony, who goes out looking for Chino, not wanting to live without Maria. He screams for Chino, and just as he sees Maria - she's not dead after all - Chino shoots him. Maria catches him as he falls, and they share one last moment together before Tony dies ("Finale").

Maria refuses to let anyone touch him. She takes Chino's gun and points it wildly at the Jets and the Sharks, but she ultimately cannot pull the trigger. She does not let the police near Tony, instead gesturing for the Sharks and Jets to carry him together. He is carried offstage in a procession as Baby John pulls Maria's shawl over her head, indicating mourning. She is the last to follow him out as the adults stand onstage with their heads bowed.