75 pages 2 hours read

West Side Story

Fiction | Play | Adult | Published in 1961

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West Side Story

  • Genre: Fiction; drama; musical
  • Originally Published: 1961
  • Reading Level/Interest: College/adult
  • Structure/Length: 2 acts (8 scenes and 5 scenes, respectively); approx. 160 pages
  • Protagonists and Central Conflict: In this retelling of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Tony, who belongs to a gang of American-born youths, falls in love with Maria, whose brother leads a gang of Puerto Rican immigrants. A tragic cycle of violence plays out when Tony kills Maria’s brother and is killed in revenge.
  • Potential Sensitivity Issues: Racism; prejudice against immigrants; gang violence; teen suicide; attempted rape

Arthur Laurents, Playwright

  • Bio: 1917-2011; playwright, novelist, screenwriter, and director; after college, took a writing class at New York University and sold his first radio play; drafted into US Army during WWII and wrote training films and radio propaganda; was blacklisted as an alleged Communist in late 1940s and 1950s; wrote novel and script versions of West Side Story; won three Tony Awards during his career
  • Other Works: Rope (screenplay; 1948); Gypsy (Broadway script; 1959); The Way We Were (novel and screenplay; 1973); The Turning Point (screenplay; 1977)

Stephen Sondheim, Lyricist

  • Bio: 1930-2021; composer and lyricist; was highly creative and influential in his work, although not always a popular favorite; in his youth, spent much time in the home of lyricist Oscar Hammerstein, who became a mentor; wrote all the lyrics for West Side Story, although he was initially reluctant to take a job that did not including composing; won an Academy Award, 8 Tony Awards, and 8 Grammy Awards during his career; won Pulitzer Prize for drama (1985) for Sunday in the Park with George (1984)
  • Other Works: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1962); Company (1970); Sweeney Todd (1979); Into the Woods (1987)
  • Awards: Tony Award nomination for Best Musical (Broadway production; 1957); 10 Academy Awards for 1961 film version