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West Side Story

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West Side Story is a brilliant updating of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, the two warring families of Verona now two streets gangs of kids from two different immigrant cultures coexisting in one New York City neighborhood. West Side Story demonstrates yet again the enduring quality of Shakespeare's work, how he explored personal desires and social structures so intrinsically human that we can still identify with his characters 400 years later and recognize how our reinvented society mirrors those of his plays. Young lovers Maria and Tony are caught in a storm of racial intolerance, family traditions, and street-gang rivalry between the Jets and the Sharks against the back drop of New York City's west side during the last days of summer, 1957. In this essay, I am going to examine how the creators of West Side Story ÐŽV Leonard Bernstein (composer), Arthur Laurents (Librettist) and Jerome Robbins (Director) made adaptations to it. In addition, I will discuss whether the theme of racial conflicts, the central idea of West Side Story, was apt to the American society back in the 1950s. I will also move on to discuss if this theme is still applicable to our world nowadays.

West Side Story was originally known as East Side Story, in which the story was set against the background of religious feuds, about a Jewish boy and a Catholic girl that fell in love with each other. However, the story was later changed to West Side Story, when Laurents thought that a love story using a local white American and a Hispanic Puerto Rican as the hero and heroine caught in the middle of street gang rivalry would be more apt in reflecting AmericaÐŽ¦s social situation back in the 1950s.

Romeo is Tony (Richard Beymer), a member of the white gang the Jets, and Juliet is Maria (Natalie Wood), sister of Bernardo (George Chakiris), head of the Puerto Rican gang the Sharks. In addition to the racial barrier between the two groups, there's the huge culture gap: the Jets are first-generation Americans, children of European immigrants; the young Sharks are themselves recently arrived from Puerto Rico. For all their brief history as Americans, the Jets feel they've got a right to defend their turf against newcomers; the Sharks feel the torn loyalties of most immigrants, homesick for their mother country and facing an uphill climb against discrimination, but also eager for the opportunities America offers. In such an insular atmosphere, the divide between the Jets and the Sharks seems insurmountable. Tony and Maria bridge that gulf briefly, despite the misgivings of his friend Riff (Russ Tamblyn, in the best performance of the film) and her friend Anita (Rita Moreno). The inescapably tragic story plays out

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