How did the director of West Side Story transform Shakespeare's original wedding scene for a new, modern audience while exploring the same universal themes as the original play?

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jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The wedding scene in West Side Story takes place inside the bridal shop where Maria works. In this scene, Maria and Tony imagine their wedding, and they arrange mannequins to play the parts of their parents and others in the wedding party. This scene, like the scene in Romeo and Juliet, allows the lovers to express their commitment to each other, although the scene takes place in a bridal store instead of Friar Lawrence's cell. The theme of lovers marrying without their parents' consent is present in both plays, but in West Side Story, mannequins are cleverly used to symbolize Tony and Maria's absent parents.

In Romeo and Juliet, Romeo tells the Friar, "Do thou but close our hands with holy words,/ Then love-devouring death do what he dare;/ It is enough I may but call her mine" (II.6.6-8). Romeo asks the Friar to join Romeo's hand to Juliet's to make their love able to defeat death. In the mock wedding scene in West Side Story, Maria and Tony sing the song "One Hand, One Heart," which echoes the same theme as Romeo's words — that of the lovers joining their hands and hearts.