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Set in the fifties? 
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Post Set in the fifties?
West Side Story was written to be timeless, with no specific language or slang of any particular era invoked- a ploy which failed terribly.

Is the play essentially set in the Fifties, or is it "the present- you are here, now?"

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Sat Feb 27, 2010 8:11 am
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Post Re: Set in the fifties?
Monsieur D'Arque wrote:
West Side Story was written to be timeless, with no specific language or slang of any particular era invoked- a ploy which failed terribly.

Is the play essentially set in the Fifties, or is it "the present- you are here, now?"




It was definitely set around the time it was written, because it described the situation in America at that time.


Sat Feb 27, 2010 12:18 pm
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'Fifties' as far as my concern goes regardless of the creators' intent.

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Sat Feb 27, 2010 4:11 pm
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Post WEST SIDE STORY: set in the 1950s?
Monsieur D'Arque wrote:
West Side Story was written to be timeless, with no specific language or slang of any particular era invoked- a ploy which failed terribly. Is the play essentially set in the fifties, or is it "the present- you are here, now?"

The writers did not intend to write a show that was without milieu. West Side Story is very clearly set in 1950s America. It was intended to be contemporary to the time. In this sense, the show was never written to be "timeless" or played in an ever updating present setting.

The choice made around the language usage in the show was to do with something completely different. The creative team felt that to use contemporary slang of the time would date the piece too quickly, which is often a problem with musical theatre pieces that are set in a time that is close to their original productions, so a vocabulary that was unique to the piece at the time was developed so that it would be "timeless" as opposed to "dated" for a longer period of time. Of course, the language now sounds like it comes from the the period anyway, partly because of the way that mass media influence our impressions of the past and partly because there was some crossover of the language usage because of the influential piece of pop culture that West Side Story became, particularly following the release of the film.

Did this ploy fail? In a minor way, yes, because the show sounds like something from another time today - but now that the piece can be played as a period piece, this doesn't matter. It did the job it was setting out to do, which was to keep the show going at a time when using slang specific to the year of its premiere would have dated the show within a year or two, a time when it's too close to its period setting to be viewed as a period piece. In that context, it was an incredibly successful choice.

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Sat Feb 27, 2010 10:52 pm
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I wonder...do you think West Side Story could be reimagined to be set in today's world?

(Not that it should, but could it be successfully set in 2010 without losing the story?)


Mon Apr 19, 2010 2:45 pm
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Personally, I think it will always be set in the 1950's. One of the problems with the revival of West Side Story is the modernization of the dancing. The only reason they didn't change the dancing of the show was because it's classic and a signature to the show. That's why it retains it's 1950's time period.

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Mon Apr 19, 2010 6:54 pm
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ConverseSneaker wrote:
I wonder...do you think West Side Story could be reimagined to be set in today's world?

(Not that it should, but could it be successfully set in 2010 without losing the story?)


I think to do that they would have to change some things in it to fit with the time, but with the whole "political correctness" thing today, I don't think it could be pulled off without accusations of racism.

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Mon Apr 19, 2010 6:54 pm
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disneyprincess wrote:
ConverseSneaker wrote:
I wonder...do you think West Side Story could be reimagined to be set in today's world?

(Not that it should, but could it be successfully set in 2010 without losing the story?)


I think to do that they would have to change some things in it to fit with the time, but with the whole "political correctness" thing today, I don't think it could be pulled off without accusations of racism.

I don't think 'political correctness' or wish to avoid offence that would be the main obstacle to the story. My concern is that the problem of Puerto Ricans coming in flux to the United States was far more of a prominent concern in the 50s than now. While South Americans are still immigrating to the states en masse today, Hispanics have integrated into U.S. society considerably more than 50 years in the past and while there remains much controversy over immigration concerns, I don't think that the Sharks today would meet the same intensity of racial distrust as they would at the time the story is set. As such the two warring factions would have to be changed to one that reflects a current issue of migration and I'm not quite sure what the situation it could be changed to without fundamentally altering the play.

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Last edited by random_person on Wed Apr 21, 2010 7:25 am, edited 4 times in total.



Tue Apr 20, 2010 6:20 am
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^ I agree.

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Tue Apr 20, 2010 5:20 pm
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The Sharks (well, not the actual Shark boys, but the populace they represent) are honest, hardworking LEGAL immigrants who nonetheless meet with prejudice in New York due less to the the color of their skin than to the political and socioeconomic situation they belong to.

Nowadays, they would be either Mexican or ambiguously Arabic, which gives a VERY different cultural background and style either way.

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So wave one bachelor goodbye,
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In my sordid saloon..."


Wed May 26, 2010 4:53 pm
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Post WEST SIDE STORY --> Prejudice as a Contemporary Theme
disneyprincess wrote:
With the whole "political correctness" thing today, I don't think (a modern version of West Side Story) could be pulled off without accusations of racism.

I don't believe there would be any value in setting the show in a different era, but would a contemporary show similar to West Side Story that sets out to expose prejudice and overtly achieves this in how it is written and staged really be subjected to accusations of racism, assuming that the character of both groups involved was truthfully and sincerely depicted?

random_person wrote:
I don't think 'political correctness' or wish to avoid offence that would be the main obstacle to the story. My concern is that the problem of Puerto Ricans coming in flux to the United States was far more of a prominent concern in the 50s than now.... As such the two warring factions would have to be changed to one that reflects a current issue of migration and I'm not quite sure what the situation it could be changed to without fundamentally altering the play.

Monsieur D'Arque wrote:
Nowadays, they would be either Mexican or ambiguously Arabic, which gives a very different cultural background and style either way.

I agree with the point that a play dealing with similar themes would deal with two different groups of people. However, such a play would inevitably suffer in comparison with West Side Story, in the way that The Beautiful Game (now The Boys in the Photograph) does, even though the differences between the shows are perhaps more prominent that their albeit considerable similarities.

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Fri Jul 02, 2010 12:05 am
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Post Re: Set in the fifties?
West Side Story, imo, was set in the 1950's and the early 1960's, but I think it could very well reflect how things were in the 1970's through at least the 1990's, because there were gangs, rumbles, ethnic/racial tensions, and urban gang warfare that were still played out, in real life.

As a neighbor of mine succinctly put it: West Side Story is fiction, but closer to reality.


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