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%.
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.westsidestory.com/site/level2/a
 http://www.rzuser.uniheidelberg.de/~el6/presentations/Latino_A
 http://www.pcs.org/_images/study_guides/

Background to West Side Story