As written on Playbill Online, "In a statement Arthur Laurents, who penned West Side Story's book and directed this production said, '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.'" I wonder what caused them to rethink and reset the lyrics.
When I saw the show I did not quite understand why the lyrics were in Spanish in the first place. I understand that the idea was to give the characters and story more credibility and ground them in their native tongue. However, the current Broadway audience primarily speaks English. (With the state of education in this country I doubt even audience members who studied Spanish in school understood much of what they heard.)
What I found incongruous and weak in the production was just this concept, to ground the production with some sort of 'reality'. To start, it was difficult to believe that the 'gang' members were dangerous. My reason being that the demands of the dancing require well trained dancers and even the most masculine dancers have trouble pulling off looking dangerous when doing ballet steps. (I think you have to be Russian to stand a chance.) It is also true of this production, as well as the film, that the actor playing Tony is not believable as a one time leader of this 'dangerous' gang. For my money, Matt Cavanaugh is too pretty. He is a terrific singer but doesn't have the 'machismo' to make me think he is or ever was a tough guy. It's unfortunate because I think if they cast Tony as believably rough but still handsome the story would have a deeper resonance.
Lastly, if I wanted to see a show that needed subtitles, I would go to the Opera. That said, I am thrilled that WSS is on Broadway again and glad that the audiences that now see it will now understand and recognize the beautiful lyrics of those two songs. The ballets are some of the finest stage choreography of all time and the dancers are pretty amazing. To see the show, for me, was like wearing a nice warm sweater that I have had for a long time and just pulled out of the closet. It feels good and satisfying.