What is west side story Terg / 07.12.202007.12.2020 Westside story is a modern musical representation of the classic story "Romeo and Juliet". The sharks and the jets are rival gangs fighting for the same territory. Tensions rise as a shark girl named Maria and a Jet named Tony fall for eachother, but there's a problem they can never be allowed to . West Side Story, theatre music by American composer Leonard Bernstein that premiered August 19, , in Washington, D.C., before moving to Broadway for a second opening on September 26, The musical is a 20th-century American adaptation of the Shakespearean tale of Romeo and Juliet. The musical is a 20th-century American adaptation of the Shakespearean tale of Romeo and Juliet. It has become one of the most frequently performed of all American musicals, and many consider it to be the definitive Bernstein composition. For the creation of this musical, Bernstein was joined by lyricist Stephen Sondheimplaywright Arthur Laurents, choreographer Jerome Robbinsand impresario Harold Prince. It ran for performances, and it might have won the Tony Award for best musical had its competition not been The How to write transition sentences in essays Man. Inadapted for the silver screen, West Side Story took 10 Academy Awards, including best picture. Additionally, he drew upon some of the time-honoured techniques of opera composition. For each individual, Bernstein crafted music that mirrors those visions, whether romantic or sultry or combative. Print Cite verified Cite. While every effort has been made to follow citation style rules, there may be some discrepancies. Please refer to the appropriate style manual or other sources if you have any questions. Facebook Twitter. Give Feedback External Websites. Let us know if you have suggestions to improve this article requires login. External Websites. Betsy Schwarm Betsy Schwarm is a music historian based in Colorado. She serves on the music faculty of Metropolitan State University of Denver and gives pre-performance talks for Opera Colorado and the Colorado Symphony See Article History. Learn More in these related Britannica articles:. Other innovative choreographers include Agnes deMille, whose dances in Oklahoma! Robbins conceived, directed, and choreographed this work, which featured a musical score by Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim,…. He also wrote the scores for the ballets Fancy FreeFacsimileand Dybbukand he composed the music for the film On the Waterfrontfor which…. History at your fingertips. Sign up here to see what happened On This Dayevery day in your inbox! Email address. By signing up, you agree to our Privacy Notice. Be on the lookout for your Britannica newsletter to get trusted stories delivered right to your inbox. Navigation menu West Side Story, American musical film, released in , that was inspired by Shakespeare ’s Romeo and Juliet. The movie, filled with exhilarating dance sequences choreographed by Jerome Robbins and memorable songs—including “Tonight,” “Maria,” and “Somewhere”—by Leonard Bernstein (music) and Stephen Sondheim (lyrics), won 10 of the 11 Academy. The musical explores the rivalry between the Jets and the Sharks, two teenage street gangs of different ethnic backgrounds. The members of the Sharks, from Puerto Rico , are taunted by the Jets, a white gang. The dark theme, sophisticated music, extended dance scenes, and focus on social problems marked a turning point in musical theatre. The original Broadway production, conceived, directed and choreographed by Jerome Robbins and produced by Robert E. Griffith and Harold Prince , marked Sondheim's Broadway debut. It ran for performances before going on tour. The show had an even longer-running London production, a number of revivals and international productions. He proposed that the plot focus on the conflict between an Irish Catholic family and a Jewish family living on the Lower East Side of Manhattan ,  during the Easter— Passover season. The girl has survived the Holocaust and emigrated from Israel; the conflict was to be centered around anti-Semitism of the Catholic "Jets" towards the Jewish "Emeralds" a name that made its way into the script as a reference. Bernstein wanted to present the material in operatic form, but Robbins and Laurents resisted the suggestion. They described the project as "lyric theater", and Laurents wrote a first draft he called East Side Story. Only after he completed it did the group realize it was little more than a musicalization of themes that had already been covered in plays like Abie's Irish Rose. When Robbins opted to drop out, the three men went their separate ways, and the piece was shelved for almost five years. In , theatrical producer Martin Gabel was working on a stage adaptation of the James M. Cain novel Serenade , about an opera singer who comes to the realization he is homosexual, and he invited Laurents to write the book. Laurents accepted and suggested Bernstein and Robbins join the creative team. Robbins felt if the three were going to join forces, they should return to East Side Story , and Bernstein agreed. Sondheim auditioned by playing the score for Saturday Night , his musical that was scheduled to open in the fall. Laurents liked the lyrics but was not impressed with the music. Sondheim did not care for Laurents' opinion. Serenade ultimately was shelved. While in Hollywood, he contacted Bernstein, who was in town conducting at the Hollywood Bowl. The two met at The Beverly Hills Hotel , and the conversation turned to juvenile delinquent gangs , a fairly recent social phenomenon that had received major coverage on the front pages of the morning newspapers due to a Chicano turf war. The two contacted Robbins, who was enthusiastic about a musical with a Latin beat. He arrived in Hollywood to choreograph the dance sequences for the film The King and I , and he and Laurents began developing the musical while working on their respective projects, keeping in touch with Bernstein, who had returned to New York. When the producer of The Painted Veil replaced Gardner with Eleanor Parker and asked Laurents to revise his script with her in mind, he backed out of the film, freeing him to devote all his time to the stage musical. Bernstein had decided he needed to concentrate solely on the music, and he and Robbins had invited Betty Comden and Adolph Green to write the lyrics, but the team opted to work on Peter Pan instead. Laurents asked Sondheim if he would be interested in tackling the task. Initially he resisted, because he was determined to write the full score for his next project Saturday Night had been aborted. But Oscar Hammerstein convinced him that he would benefit from the experience, and he accepted. The original book Laurents wrote closely adhered to Romeo and Juliet , but the characters based on Rosaline and the parents of the doomed lovers were eliminated early on. Later the scenes related to Juliet's faking her death and committing suicide also were deleted. Language posed a problem; four-letter curse words were uncommon in the theater at the time, and slang expressions were avoided for fear they would be dated by the time the production opened. Laurents ultimately invented what sounded like real street talk but actually was not: "cut the frabba-jabba", for example. With the help of Oscar Hammerstein, Laurents convinced Bernstein and Sondheim to move "One Hand, One Heart", which he considered too pristine for the balcony scene, to the scene set in the bridal shop, and as a result "Tonight" was written to replace it. Laurents felt that the building tension needed to be alleviated in order to increase the impact of the play's tragic outcome, so comic relief in the form of Officer Krupke was added to the second act. He was outvoted on other issues: he felt the lyrics to " America " and " I Feel Pretty " were too witty for the characters singing them, but they stayed in the score and proved to be audience favorites. Another song, "Kid Stuff", was added and quickly removed during the Washington, D. Bernstein composed West Side Story and Candide concurrently, which led to some switches of material between the two works. Just as Tony and Maria, our Romeo and Juliet, set themselves apart from the other kids by their love, so we have tried to set them even further apart by their language, their songs, their movement. Wherever possible in the show, we have tried to heighten emotion or to articulate inarticulate adolescence through music, song or dance. The show was nearly complete in the fall of , but almost everyone on the creative team needed to fulfill other commitments first. Bernstein was despondent, but Sondheim convinced his friend Hal Prince , who was in Boston overseeing the out-of-town tryout of the new George Abbott musical New Girl in Town , to read the script. He liked it but decided to ask Abbott, his longtime mentor, for his opinion, and Abbott advised him to turn it down. Prince, aware that Abbott was the primary reason New Girl was in trouble, decided to ignore him, and he and his producing partner Robert Griffith flew to New York to hear the score. Prince began cutting the budget and raising money. Robbins then announced he did not want to choreograph the show, but changed his mind when Prince agreed to an eight-week dance rehearsal period instead of the customary four , since there was to be more dancing in West Side Story than in any previous Broadway show,  and allowed Robbins to hire Peter Gennaro as his assistant. Getting the work on stage was still not easy. Bernstein said:. Everyone told us that [ West Side Story ] was an impossible project And we were told no one was going to be able to sing augmented fourths , as with "Ma-ri-a" Also, they said the score was too rangy for pop music Besides, who wanted to see a show in which the first-act curtain comes down on two dead bodies lying on the stage? And then we had the really tough problem of casting it, because the characters had to be able not only to sing but dance and act and be taken for teenagers. Ultimately, some of the cast were teenagers, some were 21, some were 30 but looked Some were wonderful singers but couldn't dance very well, or vice versa Throughout the rehearsal period, the New York newspapers were filled with articles about gang warfare, keeping the show's plot timely. Robbins kept the cast members playing the Sharks and the Jets separate in order to discourage them from socializing with each other and reminded everyone of the reality of gang violence by posting news stories on the bulletin board backstage. He gave the ensemble more freedom than Broadway dancers had previously been given to interpret their roles, and the dancers were thrilled to be treated like actors instead of just choreographed bodies. There were problems with Oliver Smith 's designs. His painted backdrops were stunning, but the sets were, for the most part, either shabby looking or too stylized. Prince refused to spend money on new construction, and Smith was obliged to improve what he had as best he could with very little money to do it. Bernstein magnanimously removed his name as co-author of the lyrics, although Sondheim was uncertain he wanted to receive sole credit for what he considered to be overly florid contributions by Bernstein. Robbins demanded and received a "Conceived by" credit, and used it to justify his making major decisions regarding changes in the show without consulting the others. As a result, by opening night on Broadway, none of his collaborators were talking to him. It has been rumored that while Bernstein was off trying to fix the musical Candide , Sondheim wrote some of the music for West Side Story , and that Bernstein's co-lyricist billing mysteriously disappeared from the credits of West Side Story during the tryout, presumably as a trade-off. Contrary to rumor, Sondheim did not write music for the show; his only contribution came on "Something's Coming", where he developed the main strain of the chorus from music Bernstein wrote for the verse. They are warned by police officers Krupke and Lt. Schrank to stop fighting on their beat. The police chase the Sharks off, and then the Jets plan how they can assure their continued dominance of the street. The Jets' leader, Riff, suggests setting up a rumble with the Sharks. He plans to make the challenge to Bernardo, the Sharks' leader, that night at the neighborhood dance. Riff wants to convince his best friend and former member of the Jets, Tony, to meet the Jets at the dance. Some of the Jets are unsure of his loyalty, but Riff is adamant that Tony is still one of them "Jet Song". Riff meets Tony while he's working at Doc's Drugstore to persuade him to come. Tony initially refuses, but Riff wins him over. Tony is convinced that something important is round the corner " Something's Coming ". Maria works in a bridal shop with Anita, the girlfriend of her brother, Bernardo. Maria has just arrived from Puerto Rico for her arranged marriage to Chino, a friend of Bernardo's. Maria confesses to Anita that she is not in love with Chino. Anita makes Maria a dress to wear to the neighborhood dance. At the dance, after introductions, the teenagers begin to dance; soon a challenge dance is called "Dance at the Gym" , during which Tony and Maria who aren't taking part in the challenge dance see each other across the room and are drawn to each other. They dance together, forgetting the tension in the room, and fall in love, but Bernardo pulls his sister from Tony and sends her home. Riff and Bernardo agree to meet for a War Council at Doc's, a drug store which is considered neutral ground, but meanwhile, an infatuated and happy Tony finds Maria's building and serenades her outside her bedroom " Maria ". She appears on her fire escape, and the two profess their love for one another " Tonight ". The Jets get antsy while waiting for the Sharks inside Doc's drugstore. Riff helps them let out their aggression " Cool ". The Sharks arrive to discuss weapons to use in the rumble. Tony suggests "a fair fight" fists only , which the leaders agree to, despite the other members' protests. Bernardo believes that he will fight Tony, but must settle for fighting Diesel, Riff's second-in-command, instead. This is followed by a monologue by the ineffective Lt. Schrank trying to find out the location of the rumble. Tony tells Doc about Maria. Doc is worried for them while Tony is convinced that nothing can go wrong; he is in love. The next day, Maria is in a very happy mood at the bridal shop, as she anticipates seeing Tony again, but she is dismayed when she learns about the upcoming rumble from Anita. When Tony arrives, Maria insists that he must stop the fight altogether, which he agrees to do. Before he goes, they dream of their wedding " One Hand, One Heart ". The gangs meet under the highway and, as the fight between Bernardo and Diesel begins, Tony arrives and tries to stop it. Though Bernardo taunts and provokes Tony, ridiculing his attempt to make peace, Tony keeps his composure.