Arthur Laurents authored the book for the original West Side Story and now he's overseeing the revival: "'They're not adorable street kids....They're killers, each and every one of them. They're vicious and they have to be played that way.'" So he wants to convey a new sense of brutality without changing a word.
That would seem to be easy since Sondheim's lyrics hold up:
My father is a bastard,
My ma's an S.O.B.
My grandpa's always plastered,
My grandma pushes tea.
My sister wears a mustache,
My brother wears a dress.
Goodness gracious, that's why I'm a mess!
I think what he's reacting to is the movie, specifically the virginal Natalie Wood and Richard Beymer. Laurents envisions his new leads as "so sexually involved. They're all over each other." Well. OK. But doesn't there have to be some measure of innocence about those two characters? Isn't that an important contrast to all the senseless violence? Otherwise it's all young thugs and oversexed teenagers and that's something you can see on TV any old time. Although. If he casts an American Idol--or, somehow, Sean Combs--then maybe it will be genius.