West Side Story

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West Side Story
The Rumble from West Side Story 1957.JPG
Scene from the first performance of West Side Story in 1957
Music Leonard Bernstein
Lyrics Stephen Sondheim
Book Arthur Laurents
Basis Romeo and Juliet, play by William Shakespeare
Productions Broadway (1957)
West End (1958)
Movie (1961)

West Side Story is a musical. It is based on Shakespeare's play, Romeo and Juliet. The book was written by Arthur Laurents. The music was composed by Leonard Bernstein, and the lyrics were written by Stephen Sondheim. It starred Carol Lawrence as Maria.

West Side Story opened on Broadway at the Winter Garden Theatre on 26 September 1957, and on the West End at Her Majesty's Theatre on 12 December 1958. On the West End, was performed 1,039 times. It won two Tony Awards.

The musical was adapted to a movie in 1961, starring Natalie Wood. The movie won 10 Academy Awards.

Plot[change | change source]

The story is set in the Upper West Side neighborhood in New York City in the mid-1950s. It is a working-class neighborhood with a mixture of ethnic groups. (In the early 1960s, much of the neighborhood would be cleared to make room for Lincoln Center, which changed the neighborhood.[1][2])

The musical explores the rivalry between the Jets and the Sharks, two teenage street gangs of different ethnic backgrounds. The Sharks' members are immigrants from Puerto Rico. The Jets' members are Caucasian (their families immigrated from places like Ireland and Italy). The two gangs fight over which areas in the neighborhood belong to which gang.

There are four main characters in the play:

  • Riff, the Jets' leader
  • Bernardo, the Sharks' leader
  • Maria, Bernardo's sister
  • Tony, Riff's best friend. Tony used to be a member of the Jets.

After meeting her at a dance, Tony falls in love with Maria. This causes more fighting between the Jets and the Sharks.

Music[change | change source]

Bernstein's score for the musical includes:

  • "Something's Coming"
  • "Maria"
  • "America"
  • "Somewhere"
  • "Tonight"
  • "Jet Song"
  • "I Feel Pretty"
  • "A Boy Like That"
  • "One Hand, One Heart"
  • "Gee, Officer Krupke"
  • "Cool"

Importance[change | change source]

The play's dark theme, sophisticated music, long dance scenes, and focus on social problems made West Side Story a turning point in American musical theatre.

Related pages[change | change source]

References[change | change source]

  1. Sarah Waxman, "The History of the Upper West Side" ny.com http://www.ny.com/articles/upperwest.html
  2. "About Lincoln Center", City Realty, http://www.cityrealty.com/nyc/

Other websites[change | change source]