Bernstein Joins Symphonic and Jazz Elements in West Side Story (Great Events from History II: Arts and Culture Series)
Article abstract: Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story, a musical drama based on William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, joined symphonic techniques with Latin American and jazz elements.
Summary of Event
It is generally agreed that the original idea for West Side Story belonged to Jerome Robbins. It was Robbins who suggested using the Romeo and Juliet story in a musical with a contemporary setting. The original idea, of course, was quite different from what eventually arrived on Broadway in 1957. The first meeting of West Side Story’s creators took place in 1949 and involved Robbins, a noted director-choreographer, composer Leonard Bernstein, and playwright Arthur Laurents. What Robbins proposed was a musical using Romeo and Juliet as a foundation. Rather than Shakespeare’s setting of Verona with its warring Montagues and Capulets, Robbins wanted to use the East Side neighborhoods of New York during Easter-Passover. The drama would focus on Catholic-Jewish or Irish-Jewish conflicts.
While, at one time, such a conflict was a viable issue for drama, it was decided that the original idea would not work. The world had changed too much. The East Side was not what it had been, and Bernstein felt that the recent influx of Latin Americans to the area presented a more contemporary situation. Another problem that arose at that first meeting was a problem present in most...
(The entire section is 2236 words.)
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