The Importance of West Side Story Essay

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West Side Story is one of the great contributors to musical theatre, in particular Broadway where it originally opened on September 26 1957 at the Winter garden Theatre. The production ran for 732 performances before entering the world of film in 1961. However, I believe its significance lies in the heart of the theatre where the audience is subjected to different styles of music, dance and of course an adaptation of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. In fact, Leonard Bernstein first decided to call his play East Side Story but opted against it, due to social relevancy. Instead the story would take place on the West side of New York; Brooklyn, under a realistic urban setting, hence West Side Story. This decision may have improved the way…show more content…
In my opinion, this story cold not be portrayed under typical musical direction. Although West Side Story is based predominantly upon love, there are also acts of bigotry, attempted rape and murder. Previous musicals such as Cole Porter's Kiss Me Kate and Roger & Hammerstein's Oklahoma! used many up-tempo songs to uplift audiences and leave them feeling cheerful. W.S.S offers a more realistic approach demonstrating the problems all over the world. One noticeable element of the production is the unpredictability of the story. Both Acts end with the death of strong personalities (Riff and Bernado in The Rumble, and Tony in The Finale). This was almost certainly against audience anticipation during the late fifties and even today. It is not only the story, but also the music and dance which offer surprise. Whereas many musicals were creating songs in straight 4/4, 2/4 time, West Side Story introduced time signatures which new to any form of modern entertainment e.g. 6/4 in the Tonight Ensemble and 12/8 for the Dance in the Gym. Coincidentally the latter incorporated so many different styles of music with a jazz number for the dance sequence, a pomp and circumstance for the promenade and a Latin jive for the Mambo. The Mambo is a typical example of the use of ostinatos e.g. Bar 71-78 where the Contrabass plays across the beat accompanied by some
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