By Marc S. Sanders
The musical answer to Romeo & Juliet will always remain as one of my favorites.
West Side Story crackles with energy as soon as the 6 minute overture begins and segues into overhead shots of New York City accompanied by its frequent whistle calls. Then it zooms in for something new, fresh, and eye popping; precise choreography from Jerome Robbins to represent street fighting by means of heart racing ballet. You simply can’t take your eyes off the screen.
Young love and pride carry Robbins’ film with partnered direction from Robert Wise. It’s sadly amazing that the prejudices that shape the story are arguably more evident and profound nearly 60 years later. Tony & Maria must never be together. Change the names today, and the logic behind the societal law will often mirror the reasoning found in the film.
Am I focusing too much on that message though? There’s so much to cherish in West Side Story. A film that boasts numbers like “America,” “I Feel Pretty,” “Tonight,” “Stay Cool Boy,” “When You’re A Jet,” “Maria,” and my favorite “Officer Krupke.” It does not get much better than this.
The dancing lunges at the camera. The dialogue may be dated, yeah, but the cast is so genuine to the setting (even if Natalie Wood is lip syncing her songs).
Steven Spielberg has remade the film, to be released in December, 2021. I’ll go see it, sure. Yet I don’t believe it’ll compare to the original 1961 winner for Best Picture as well as the other 9 Oscars it was recognized for.
Go back and catch up with West Side Story. It should be seen by anyone who ever wanted to watch a great film.