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9th Grade

Study Guide

West Side Story is a musical based on Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. It is a love story, a tragedy, and a story of prejudice and injustice brought to life with dance and united with music. Its themes are universal and everlasting spanning centuries and social strata.
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8ths_na.gif (733 bytes) Production Personnel 8ths_na.gif (733 bytes) Theme
8ths_na.gif (733 bytes) Characters 8ths_na.gif (733 bytes) Staging
8ths_na.gif (733 bytes) Setting 8ths_na.gif (733 bytes) Assignments
8ths_na.gif (733 bytes) Point of View 8ths_na.gif (733 bytes) Song Lyrics
8ths_na.gif (733 bytes) Plot 8ths_na.gif (733 bytes) 9th Grade Home Page


Book Arthur Laurents

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Music Leonard Bernstein
Lyrics Stephen Sondheim
Choreography Jerome Robbins
Producer Robert Wise
Director Wise & Robbins
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Jets established white Sharks new Puerto Rican
neighborhood gang neighborhood gang
Tony former co-founder of Jets Bernardo leader of Sharks
in love with Maria brother of Maria
close friend of Riff boyfriend of Anita
Riff co-founder of Jets Chino second in command
engaged to Maria
now leader of Jets
shy, quiet
Ice second in command of Jets Maria sister of Bernardo
cool,steady in love with Tony
Action hot head, agressive Anita girlfriend of Bernardo
confidante to Maria
Baby John innocent Doc soda shop owner
youngest gang member
Tony's boss
Lt. Shrank plain clothes police, strong Officer Krupke beat cop, goon like
prejudice Shrank's cohort


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New York City, NY. 1950's
Ghetto neighborhood/gang land Playground
Ethnic prejudice Poverty


Originally a broadway production then a memorable film

West Side Story ran on Broadway starting in 1957 for 743 performances, then on a national tour before returning to Broadway and completing a total of performances just under 1,000. In 1961 West Side Story was made into a film, one of the finest musicals ever, starring Natalie Wood and Richard Beymer. The film won 10 Acaemy awards including 'Best Picture.'


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wood_we.jpg (26202 bytes) West Side Story is a love story. This is the story of two teens who meet and experience love at first sight. Unfortunately, the two are from different social and ethnic backgrounds. Their idealistic love is doomed from the start as they try to overcome the barriers of prejudice and fear.


man vs. man Bernardo vs. Tony
Bernardo vs. Riff
Jets vs. Sharks
Generation vs. generation
man vs. society Tony & Maria vs. prejudice
Gangs vs. prejudice
Gangs vs. police
Puerto Ricans vs. prejudice
strip.jpg (10864 bytes) wss.jpg (10864 bytes) West Side Story is a story of prejudice and injustice. This is a story of racism and fear centered around gang activity and the protection of territory.


The themes in West Side Story evolve from the major conflicts.


love vs. hate
individual vs. society
man vs. fate


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In a broadway show or movie the staging is very important and helps to make the plot and action believable. In West Side Story the staging, especially in certain parts of the production, help to carry and add to the meaning of the scene. The music and dance unite the scenes and also expand on the meaning.
watch for color in the opening or prologue
in the clothing
lighting throughout the video, especially in the dress shop
props throughout the video, especially in the dress shop, may be symbolic
lyrics express the feelings of the characters
advance the action of the plot
dance express the feelings of the characters
advance the action of the plot


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