West Side Story Mambo Analysis Essay

Essay about Analysis of West Side Story

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Analysis of West Side Story

West Side Story came out in 1961 as a melodramatic musical that took place in New York. It takes the same theme as Shakespeare's, Romeo and Juliet, in that it is about two lovers whose relationship is not accepted by others because of conflicting backgrounds.

The artistic intensions of this film are implicitly stated everywhere throughout the film. All of the dancing, singing, acting and pretend fighting was done thoroughly and very well, although the miking and mixing during the pretend fighting did not seem realistic. Specific actors, dancers, and singers were trained and taught how to perform in order to get the message across to the audience that this West Side Story is not just a film, but a…show more content…

This in itself is a form of art because these songs were written specifically for the purpose of guiding the audience through the scenes and setting the mood to suit the scenery. It was like poetry put to music. The scenery and setting showed that they were on the streets of New York, as well as in and around the school were a lot of the movie took place. There was graffiti on the buildings. This itself could be considered art, but it was also incorporated into the movie by being how the credits were displayed. I would guess, from the movie, that there is a lot of graffiti on the buildings in New York as there is in most big cities. All of the artistic disciplines flowed together in quite an attractive and interesting way, even though sometimes the scene changes were quite different in mood and content. One minuet Maria, with her Puerto Rican accent, and Tony, are singing love songs to one another softly, and the next the camera zooms in on a fence outside the school where a fight is about to occur and the music changes to a more dramatic style. I think these dramatic scene changes added excitement to the film. The setting was always important to what was going on. For example, it was said that the school gym was neutral ground so when the setting showed them in the gym, no fighting broke out. However, when the big fight was supposed to take place under the bridge, the background showed were they were, and the audience could prepare for what was to come. The scene in

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Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990) was an erudite, passionate musician whose exceptional talents and expressive gifts earned him a special place in the hearts of New Yorkers.  His rose to instant national fame in 1943, at age 25, when he filled in for the suddenly ill Bruno Walter as conductor of a nationally televised New York Philharmonic performance.  He went on to become the Philharmonic’s music director until 1969, and remained a frequent guest conductor there until his death.  With the Philharmonic, he presented a series of 53 educational Young People’s Concerts which were broadcast on CBS, making him a familiar face around the nation.  He also composed music, crossing from academic classical music into Broadway musicals, including West Side StoryOn the Town, and Candide.

The Broadway musical West Side Story first came into being in 1957 as a collaboration between Bernstein (as composer), choreographer Jerome Robbins, writer Arthur Laurents, and lyricist Stephen Sondheim.  Its story is based on William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.  Set in the 1950s on Manhattan’s West Side, it tells the tragic tale of Tony and Maria, whose rival gangs doom their young love.  The musical became a film in 1961, winning 10 Academy Awards including Best Picture.  Bernstein’s music was often a character itself, giving the film psychological direction in many long dance sequences.  Originally written in English, West Side Story was most recently revived on Broadway in a bilingual version, with the Puerto Rican Sharks speaking and singing mostly in Spanish while the white Jets retain their English.

Four Dances from West Side Story features some of the highlights of these dance sequences transcribed for band.  The “Scherzo” is a light-hearted, care-free movement that comes from the Dream Ballet of the musical, in which Tony imagines a world of peace and harmony to which he can take Maria.  The “Mambo” comes from the gym scene where the Jets and the Sharks meet and dance while trying to suppress their hostility towards each other.  The “Mambo” fades into the “Cha-Cha” as Tony and Maria notice each other for the first time and dance together, transfixed.  The anxiety-ridden “Fugue” is based on material from the song “Cool”, in which the Jets are convincing each other to bottle up their overwhelming emotions.  The fugue’s subject is a 12-tone row, lending a worrisome and tense feeling to the movement.  Each new statement of the theme adds more layers until the texture explodes into a percussion-heavy statement of the main theme from “Cool”.

And now, some YouTube action:

Aside from the fact that they don’t shout “MAMBO!”, this is a really nice performance of the Four Dances:

The “Scherzo” scene did not make it into the movie. Here is its original music, from about 0:34-2:22 in this video:

The gym scene, featuring both “Mambo” and “Cha-Cha”

The movie version of “Cool”, featuring the bits we play from about 1:30-4:00.

There is much material about both Bernstein and West Side Story on the web.  The survey below only scratches the surface.

Leonardbernstein.com – a true treasure trove of everything Bernstein, including many personal reflections by friends, relatives, and colleagues.

Leonard Bernstein on Wikipedia.

The Leonard Bernstein Collection at the US Library of Congress.

A lengthy and heartfelt essay on Bernstein and his influence at classicalnotes.net.

West Side Story main website.  Includes information on performances all over the world, lyrics to the songs, and other information.

West Side Story the musical on Wikipedia.

West Side Storynew Broadway production website.

Preview of West Side Story book (for the musical) on Google Books.

Website of Ian Polster, arranger.

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