Background to West Side Story

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					West Side Story
A musical by
 Dancer and choreographer Jerome
 Composer Leonard Bernstein
 Writer Arthur Laurents,
 Lyricist Stephen Sonheim
Background to West Side Story
 West Side Story is an adaptation of
  Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Romeo
  and Juliet.
 Think of Romeo and Juliet set to
  music and dancing!

 It was produced as a Broadway
  musical in 1957 and later made into a
  motion picture.
    Partial list of Awards:
· Best Picture, West Side Story
· Best Supporting Actor, George Chakiris
· Best Supporting Actress, Rita Moreno
· Best Direction, Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins
· Best Cinematography, Color, Daniel L. Fapp
· Best Art Direction, Color, Boris Leven (Art Direction), Victor Gangelin (Set
· Best Sound, Fred Hynes, Gordon Sawyer
· Best Scoring of a Musical, Saul Chaplin, Johnny Green, Sid Ramin, Irwin Kostal
· Best Editing, Thomas Stanford
· Best Costumes, Color, Irene Sharaff
· Special Award, Jerome Robbins for his brilliant achievement in the art of

Also nominated:
Best Screenplay, Ernest Lehman

· Best Soundtrack - West Side Story, Johnny Green, Saul Chaplin, Sid Ramin, Irwin
Setting for West Side Story
 Instead of Verona, Italy, this story is
  set in New York City in the 1950’s
Instead of feuding families like the
Montagues and the Capulets
West Side Story features warring

 The Sharks – Puerto Rican Gang

 The Jets – Second and third
  generation American Gang
 The Conflict
The Jets are from Manhattan. They have ruled
their "turf" for years, after defeating the

The Sharks are from Puerto Rico. They have
just recently come to NY, and want a "turf" of
their own.
The theme of prejudice in this musical is
directly related to the issue of immigration.
The Jets resent the Sharks not just because
they have “invaded” the neighborhood,
but also because they have “invaded” their
country. The Sharks are foreigners with a
language and customs that are strange to
the “Americanized” Jets.
  Shakespearean Counterparts

Some of the characters in West Side
Story have counterparts in Romeo and

Tony / Romeo

Maria / Juliet
•Doc / Friar Laurence
•Riff / Mercutio
•Chino / Paris
•Bernardo / Tybalt
•Anita / Nurse
Who are the Puerto Ricans?
Where is Puerto Rico?
Puerto Rico is a Caribbean
Brief History of Puerto Rico
 Originally inhabited by two Native
  American tribes, the Arawak and
  the Caribe, Spain conquered the
  island in 1493 and ruled it for
   400 years.
• The native inhabitants
  became slaves, and as
  their population dwindled;
  black slaves were also
  imported. Frequent
  intermarriage took place
  among the Spanish, the
  Indians and the blacks so
  that race became less
  emphasized over time.
•Puerto Rico became a United States
possession in 1898 after the Spanish-American
War. It was then an island of poor farmers and
their families, who mainly grew sugarcane.
•During World War I, the
unemployment rate in Puerto Rico
was a staggering 40%.
“To escape the poverty and
unemployment on the island, thousands
of Puerto Ricans immigrated to the
United States.”
•“The majority of Puerto Rican immigration to the
   United States has occurred since the end of
   the World War II.

•After the war, the great employment opportunities
drew large numbers of Puerto Ricans to New York
and other U.S. industrial centers.”
 Today, there are more than 2.5
  million people of Puerto Rican
  ancestry living in the United States.

 Almost one million of these are living
  in New York City. Nearly 40% of all
  Puerto Ricans live in the United
 In 1917, Puerto Ricans were
  granted U.S. citizenship and
  were able to travel freely
  between the mainland and the
  island. Yet, they did not have
  voting rights or political
  representation in Congress.
 Famous Puerto Ricans

                 Jennifer Lopez

Geraldo Rivera                    Roberto Clemente
Puerto Rico Today
 http://www.rzuser.uni-


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