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Another West Side Story

Q & A With Arthur Laurents

He speaks candidly in rare interview

Arthur Laurents

Arthur Laurents wrote West Side Story in 1957. — Sara Krulwich/The New York Times/Redux Pictures

Q: How did the idea emerge to do a new production of West Side Story?

A: Tom Hatcher, who was my partner for 52 years, told me he saw West Side Story in Colombia … [and] in Colombia, the Sharks were the heroes. The audience was cheering for them. Tom said, “Why not have the Sharks speak Spanish?”

I took the script in Spanish and had the whole thing gone over by Lin-Manuel Miranda; he wrote the score for In the Heights. I wanted a Puerto Rican to look at it, to advise us. He knows the Puerto Rican dialect.

Q: How much Spanish is there in this version?

A: It’s totally bilingual. Some parts are only in Spanish, with translations that will be provided in English. When Maria and Anita are alone, they speak Spanish. They sing in Spanish. It’s a conversation between friends.

[But] the musical will have a new look and sound that is more than just bilingual. We wrote it in 1957; everything was different then.

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