Rising Star Project: West Side Story
Jul 11 – Jul 13, 2019
Public Performances: July 12 & 13
Matinee Performance for Invited Student Groups: July 11 (Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for information)
Music by Leonard Bernstein Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Rising Star Project: West Side Story
West Side Story
West Side Story is an American version of Romeo and Juliet and it follows the play’s plot very closely. While Shakespeare’s tale concerns feuding aristocratic families in 15th Century Verona, West Side Story’s creators (music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, book by Arthur Laurents, choreography by Jerome Robbins) focus on a clash between second-generation Americans and newly-arrived Puerto Ricans in 1950s New York.
There is a little vulgar language, but it is very mild. Lt. Schrank, for instance, threatens to “beat the crap out of every one of you and then run you in!”
The conflict between the characters is fueled by racial prejudice, which is illustrated by the racist language used. Lieutenant Schrank, the cop on the beat, is openly racist in his remarks to the Sharks, the Puerto Rican gang (“Boy what you Puerto Ricans have done to this neighborhood.” “Get your trash out of here!” To the Jets: “I gotta put up with them and so do you!”). Later at Doc’s Candy Store, Schrank will be even more explicit: “Clear out, Spics. Sure it’s a free country and I ain’t got the right. But it’s a country with laws: and I can find the right. I got the badge, you got the skin. It’s tough all over. Beat it!” When the Jets refuse to cooperate with Lt. Schrank, he shouts, “You oughta be taken down to the station house and have your skulls mashed to pulp! You and the tin horn immigrant scum you came from!”
The Jets complain that the Puerto Ricans are “ruinin’ free enterprise.” Bernardo and the sharks, on the other hand, point out that Tony is a “Polack”: “The mother of Tony was born in Poland; Tony was born in America, so that makes him an American. But us? Foreigners! Lice! Cockroaches!” The war council between the Jets and the Sharks escalates into racial epithets: “Move where you’re wanted!” “Back where ya came from!” “Spics!” “Micks!” “Wop!”
These are implied rather than explicit. Anybodys, a girl and a wanna-be Jet, pleads: “How about me gettin’ in the gang now?” A-rab responds: “How about the gang gettin’ in – ahhh, who’d wanta?” Later when she makes fun of Baby John (“You let him be a Jet!”), he responds, “Ah, go walk the streets like ya sister.” Trying to taunt the Jets into giving him information about the coming rumble, Lt. Schrank asks one of them, “How’s the action on your mother’s mattress, Action?”
Maria pleads with Anita to lower the neck of her gown: “It is now to be dress for dancing, no longer for kneeling in front of an altar.” Anita replies, “With those boys, you can start out dancing and end up kneeling.” When Anita says Puerto Ricans came to America “ready, eager, with our hearts open,” Consuela echoes, “Our arms open -” and her boyfriend counters, “You came with your pants open.”
Anita, waiting for Bernardo to return from the rumble, sings, “He’ll walk in hot and tired / So what? / Don’t matter if he’s tired / As long he’s hot / Tonight!”
After the Sharks and the Jets rumble, Tony and Maria meet in Maria’s bedroom; they kiss and embrace and the lights go down. Later they are seen asleep in the bed (there is no nudity).
The “Jet Song” observes that “When you’re a Jet, / You’re a Jet all the way / From your first cigarette / To your last dyin’ day.”
In the song “Gee Officer Krupke,” the Jets derisively claim that their delinquency is a result of their upbringing: “Our mothers all are junkies / Our fathers all are drunks / Golly Moses – Natcherly we’re punks! . . . Dear kindly judge, your honor / My parents treat me rough / With all their marijuana / They won’t give me a puff. / They didn’t wanna have me / But somehow I was had. / Leapin’ lizards – that’s why I’m so bad!” In a mocking confession to an “analyst,” another Jet declares, “My grandpa’s always plastered / My grandma pushes tea” (marijuana).
Like Romeo and Juliet, West Side Story begins with a brawl between rival gangs, the Jets and the Sharks; the fighting is stylized and choreographed.
Two characters die in a knife fight, and a third is shot and killed; the deaths occur onstage.
In the “taunting scene,” Anita, Bernardo’s girlfriend is insulted (“Bernardo’s tramp!” “Lyin’ spic!”); she is pushed, jeered at, and forced to lunge for her shawl. The attempted rape that ensues is highly stylized and choreographed rather than being depicted graphically or realistically; there is no nudity, no explicitly sexual gestures and no overt violence.