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Comparison Of Les Miserables And West Side Story Essay

In the last century, two musicals have stood out from there comic counterparts. Les Miserables and West Side Story tell more serious stories and have captivated audiences with revivals and film versions. Both are based on classic literature, and share universal and relatable social problems. West Side Story created by Lenard Bernstein, Steven Sondheim, Arthur Laurents, and Jerome Robbins tell the story of Romeo and Juliet in 1950s New York. Les Miserables by Composer Claude-Michael Schonberg and lyricist Alain Boublil is based on Victor Hugo’s novel of the same title. The atypical nature of both the musicals that has made them more than just a temporary cultural fad. Initially both musical were not received well and did not receive that same…

Though not the next Mozart, Bernstein’s musicals Candide and West Side Story did broaden the genre, opening it up to serious and tragic tones. (Stemple 398) Lenard Bernstein was a conductor and composer and had previously worked with Jerome Robins on Fancy Free and On the Town. Eight years before, Robbins had an idea of a contemporary Romeo and Juliet story set in New York City because of rising tensions between catholic and Jewish communities. Bernstein soon became interested, especially about telling a tragic story with musical comedy elements. Laurent soon joined them. During this time all their careers were on a rise and Herrera called the process of the Romeo Project “a formal experiment” for the three collaborators. After some time, Laurents and Bernstein ran into each other in a hotel and after hearing of an LA news headline “Gang Riots on Olvera Street” which was about of gang riots between Mexican Americans and White American; it sparked ideas for the Romeo Project. (Herrera 235) Robbins liked the new racial element and the new title changed to “East Side Story to Gangway.” “the collaborators trolled for a social context in which the dramatic action could be both powerful and plausible and so seized upon two hot-button issues of their day”. Bernstein wrote “[I] have come up with what I think is going to be it: two…

In West Side Story, dance and movement replace the teenagers’ words. Dance was incorporated throughout and often carried the narrative long. It illustrated the visceral actions and feelings of the gang members. The music is the foundation for movement with its “angular melodies, dissonant harmonies, and cross rhythms”. Bernstein gathered many different contemporary styles including Jazz “cool”, Latin “America” , and Stravinsky “A boy like that.” Bernstein’s use of the tri-tone and half step became very famous. He introduced it in Tony’s song “Something’s Coming” descending in the line “who knows” .After he meets Maria he sings her name “Maria” reshaping and answering the previous song. (Stemple 402) The dance and music are woven together stringing the musical and non-musical performances together, and sometimes replacing dialogue altogether. The musical starts with a prologue of only dancing. It introduced the two gangs and exhibits their growing rivalry. The movement is and an extension of the music and both are an extension of the characters’ conditions and narrative. These are able to portray and connect the audience more effectively to the story than dialogue…

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