West Side Story Song Worksheet

People who are not fans of musical theater often cite the (seemingly) spontaneous songs as distractions from the plot. But in most musicals, the songs serve to drive the plot and to provide valuable insight into character motivation and development. Study the importance of songs from the stage version of West Side Story with a handy worksheet that prompts learners to consider the purpose for each song's inclusion in the plot as a whole.

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CCSS: Adaptable
Instructional Ideas

  • Prompt learners to write an argument essay explaining why one song from the play is necessary to the plot
  • Have class members compare and contrast the first "Tonight" song with the ensemble reprise later in the play
  • Discuss the merit of changing the order of songs between the stage and film versions, including how each placement can alter the story's tone
Classroom Considerations

  • Clarify that the singer section should include the character who sings the song, not the actor
  • Any further analysis will need to be added as an activity extension, as the worksheet only provides space for the singer and the purpose of the song
  • Song order reflects the stageplay version of West Side Story ( ("I Feel Pretty" and "Gee, Officer Krupke" are in Act II on stage, as opposed to Act I in the film; "Cool" is in Act I of the stage version instead of Act II in the film)
Pros

  • Connect literary analysis skills to theater and film
  • Aligns well with a study on Romeo and Juliet
Cons

  • None