Classic Film Review: West Side Story!

{Originally wrote this in January 2011 on}

West Side Story, taken from the Broadway play of the same name in the 1950s, draws its parallels to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Rival gangs want to “rumble” and the single members within each, Maria and Tony, are in love, surrounded by the hate and animosity of their respective groups.

I won’t draw the parallels to Shakespeare here; just suffice to say that the fights, the characters and the lovers all have their counterparts. But West Side Story is not so much about the plot and the at-times one-dimensional characters. It’s about the music. It’s about the dance!

Wonderful choreography by Jerome Robbins and the amazing tunes by the team of Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim, just take you away. You can’t help yourself, it’s so mesmerizing and at times dark and depressing.

WestSideStory_086PyxurzThe movie, despite light tunes like “Tonight”, and “Maria” has its dark overtones. The murder of two of the gang members and Tony’s involvement, the betrayal and lies after the attempted rape of one of the Puerto Rican women by the Jets and Maria’s final act makes for some somber storytelling.

But as in Shakespeare, this is a tragedy, and as a tragedy will be dark but will also give the viewer hope for a love gained and lost.

The production values are quite high. The cast can’t help themselves but to dance as they walk, dance as they stroll, dance as they match each other stride for stride, movement for movement. A wonderful, electrifying experience!

11 Academy award nominations and winning ten. This was a big film for Natalie Wood (Gypsy, Splendor In The Grass) and her co-star Richard Beymer (The Longest Day, Twin Peaks).

The amazing choreography is just to die for. I’d love to see these performed on stage someday.


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