Essay On West Side Story

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The period between early 1940s to mid-1960s or so, alternatively, the period between when the musical Oklahoma! (1943) was produced till the time when Hair (1968) was produced, is usually referred to as the Golden Age of the American musical (Kantor, 2010). It is during this period, that most of the noted titles such as “Carousel”, “South Pacific” etc. were produced. 1940s and early 1950s were dominated thoroughly by MGM musicals, while the late 1950s and 1960s belonged to Broadway. Initially, the musicals of this era had simple plots, unchallenging themes, with romantic or comedic characters and lots of singing and dancing. But towards the end of it, the plots were sophisticated, serious with singing, dancing as well as dialogue. In this paper, I choose to elaborate more on the musical – Arthur Laurents’s West Side Story. In the first part of this paper, I discuss the plot, songs and other aspects of the musical such as the awards etc. Later on, I explain how this musical revolutionized the theatre and the cultural effects it had on Americans. Finally, I conclude in the end the historical importance of this musical piece.
West Side Story:
The musical West Side Story is based on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. This musical was possible due to the efforts of four people, Leonard Bernstein, the composer, Jerome Robbins, the director and choreographer, Arthur Laurents, the playwright, and Stephen Sondheim, the lyricist. After Rodgers and Hammerstein II’s Oklahoma! , West Side Story is considered as the most significant musical.
The theme of this musical was different than the contemporary comical musicals in the sense that the plot had a tragic ending. This presented a huge challenge to the creators. West Side Story, for the fir...

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...ty of musicals was down and with the increasing tension and controversies related to war in Vietnam; society faced a period of unrest. That unity, which the American musical had certainly no longer a sign of the times that we are in. Most of all, those values that the American musical celebrated — and that is those values of American life, American philosophy, American belief — what we find is by the mid-1960s all of those beliefs, all of those philosophies, are being challenged, are being upset.
As in all genres, the musicals have had its share of failures. Some worthy dramas have been pressed into service and musicalized and sometimes butchered in the process, and audiences have had to watch a fine play diluted into a mediocre musical. But the successes have been many and spectacular and they have left a long lasting effect on the American art and culture.

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