A discussion to explore if the musical West Side Story (1957) is representative of the racial discrimination and violence present in American society during the 1950's through a textual analysis of the songs.
(2015) A discussion to explore if the musical West Side Story (1957) is representative of the racial discrimination and violence present in American society during the 1950's through a textual analysis of the songs., no. 49.
This study explores the racial representation present in the Arthur Laurents' 1957 Broadway hit West Side Story (1961). It is often seen as a turning point in musical history by displaying race so openly. Whether or not the show can be accredited to be an accurate reflection of the 1950's New York in which it is situated is analysed through looking at the lengthy creative process by Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim, Arthur Laurents and Jerome Robbins and how they moved the story along with societal changes in America is addressed. A textual analysis of Stephen Sondheim's songs within West Side Story will form a basis for this study to determine their relevance and importance within the racial structure of the show. In particular the musical numbers: 'America', 'A Boy Like That' and 'Somewhere'. An in depth study of the lyrics and meaning behind them provide valuable information about West Side Story's external influences. By using qualitative research it will allow the study to have access to many professional and critical accounts of West Side Story's past. Documents from theatre professionals and critiques from the late 1950's when the show debuted. An accurate argument can be drawn from such articles, as well as looking heavily into the factual history of 1950's America. In pairing the creative process and Sondheim's lyrics with an in-depth textual analysis this study gains a deeper understanding of West Side story as a racially fuelled musical. This dissertation determines that Robbins, Laurents, Sondheim and Bernstein, as creators of West Side Story formed a musical that is an informative representation of the racially intolerant world around it that was 1950's New York.