WEST SIDE STORY (WSS) is based on the original 1957 film and Broadway production. It is directed by the veteran, himself, Steven Spielberg. He has waited decades to direct a musical, and he chose WSS because he grew up listening to the music with his family. He said he knew every word to each song and had the time of his life directing WSS. It showed in every scene. He gave us a gift of passion and love.
Additional screenwriting was in the hands of the genius author of ANGELS IN AMERICA, Tony Kushner. The music and lyrics were created by Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim. This entire collaboration was a match made in heaven, and we, as the audience, are humbled to be in their presence.
This remake of WSS takes us into the 21st century. The plight of immigrants in our country is highlighted and featured front and center. This is often shown through their persistence and gut-wrenching fight to stay alive amid the rubble of the neighborhood. Spielberg wanted to use the site where Lincoln Center for the Arts was built. In order to create this modern facility in New York, many poor, immigrant neighborhoods had to be evacuated and destroyed. Using the image of the wrecking ball was brilliant, since many lives were never the same.
The cinematography was stunning and breath-taking. Within the first seconds, prepare to be transported to another era in history. The costumes were colorful and lusty for the Sharks and more subdued for the Jets as they should be. I loved the added red belt on Maria’s dress she wore to the dance. It was a nice, subtle touch. The choreography was out-of-this world. Amazing group of dancers and singers. The lighting was stunning. The shadows…the highlights…they added even more intense drama to the story, especially when the two gangs were ready to rumble.
The acting was stellar. Maria played by Rachel Zegler, could break your heart in half with her perfect singing. One look into her eyes and any man would be hooked. Bernardo (David Alvarez) and Riff (Mike Faust) were scene stealers. Hunky, tough dudes who were lost in their own machismo. Tony (Ansel Eigort) had a strong tenor voice that complimented Maria’s in their duets. He had huge puppy dog eyes that went on forever. Anita (Ariana DeBose) was spectacular. What a dancer, singer, and actress. She is a star for sure. But the highlight was seeing Rita Moreno on the big screen once more. She is an expert at what she does, and she still has strong singing chops for a woman in her 80’s.
Some will say that WSS has passed its prime. Modern musicals have changed since the late ’50s. Of course they have, but WSS is a classic. It still had the power to make me laugh, cry, smile, and nod my head in sheer happiness and memory. It is based on the tragic story of ROMEO AND JULIET. It is timeless. “There is a place” for this musical in our hearts for all time. It represents the best and worst of humankind. It is a true love story with infinite repercussions. Rita Moreno Says in the film, “life is larger than love.” Tony, of course, does not agree. He believes “love is life.” Either way, “someday…somehow…somewhere…” for all humanity.
WEST SIDE STORY is available in theaters everywhere. Don’t miss seeing a timeless classic.