Month O' Musicals: West Side Story

Vital Stats:
Year: 1961
Directors: Robert Wise, Jerome Robbins
Stars: Natalie Wood, Richard Beymer, Russ Tamblyn, Rita Moreno, George Chakiris
Choreographer: Jerome Robbins
Music: Leonard Bernstein
Lyrics: Stephen Sondheim

Set in 1950s Manhattan, this updated take on Romeo and Juliet has the conflict occurring between rival gangs (the Jets & the Sharks) with Tony and Maria as the star-crossed lovers.

Memorable Moments:
There's some beautiful songs here ("Something's Coming", "Maria", "I Feel Pretty", "One Hand, One Heart", and "Somewhere") but the amazing energy of the music and dancing is perhaps best seen in moments like the opening interactions between the gangs, the dance at the gym, and during the songs "America", the "Tonight Quintet" and "Cool".

What I love about it:
From the opening shots over the city to the end credits mixed in with urban graffiti, I watch this movie completely transfixed. I don't think there's a bad song in the bunch, although I do have my favorites. I find Bernardo and Anita a bit more interesting than Tony and Maria, although Natalie Wood is very watchable as Maria. I also like spotting Bud Frump (Anthony 'Scooter' Teague from How to Succeed) as one of the Jets.

The second act is increasingly bleak, but what do you expect of a movie based on one of the world's most famous tragedies? It's an emotional ride, but an amazing one.


David Bishop said...

That Tonight Quintet is one of my favorite parts of the film. I've seen the scene 'duplicated' in other musicals, but this is one of my favorite versions.

I also really love the dance in the parking garage. Amazing.

The Cheap-Arse Film Critic said...

I, along with several others, was forced to watch this movie when I was at school, and as such I hated it for a very long time. Then I saw it again recently, and all I can say is, I was wrong.

I also like the idea of covering nothing but musicals for a month. I did "White Christmas," last month as part of a series of Christmas movie reviews, and it was easily the highlight of that particular project.

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