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West Side Story

A movie directed by Jerome Robbins

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Somethings coming....something good

  • Jun 27, 2000
Rating:
+5
Pros: Beginning to end A+

Cons: the ending :(

This loose interpretation of Romeo and Juliet was adapted to the stage almost 50 years ago and is probably one of the most recognized musicals around. To this day it remains one of the most popular productions for school drama classes, it still tours in off Broadway productions and most songs, when played are immediately recognized by all ages.

Although pricey when released on screen, around 6 mil, today that is chump change - one cheap actors salary alone! It was a movie to base your dreams on and one to bring home the frailty of life.

As I have mentioned before, Woods is no singer. Her songs were dubbed in by Marni Nixon and Beymer's by Jimmy Bryant. In addition, Wood is not a dancer so some tricky camera shots had to be worked out. Fortunately, Chakiris and Moreno are accomplished enough to over shadow her less than perfect footwork. Apparently she was chosen for her natural good looks alone since she often botched her accent as well. Just think how powerful a Jennifer Lopez coupled with a Brad Pitt or Leonardo DiCapiro (can't believe I said that) would be in this movie.

While I am sure the clothing worn for the dance scenes is not atypical, it certainly added flair and splash to the movie. It was interesting how they generally ‘under dressed' Wood, showing her in softer fabrics and colors to enhance the virginal tone she was portraying. They carried it through with her make-up and hair style as well. On the flip side, they ‘painted' up the girls in the gang and dressed them in more gaudy clothes, insinuating looser morals and a harsher life style.

I really liked Chakiris as Woods older brother with his rakish good looks. Suave, sexy and a tad devilish all in one. And in that purple silk shirt....but I digress....He wasn't so flamboyant as to be brash but he still settled into the part well. A good choice for the gang leader, as opposed to Tamblyn, who was just not powerful enough to appear as a gang leader.

And Moreno-ah, Moreno-to this day a total fox. She excelled in this part. A well rounded actress with both singing and dancing talent and hot enough to play Chakiris's girlfriend. Her eyes flashed fire, her body language exuded power, anger and also tender feelings. Were she not so perfect for this part, she would have made a much better Maria.

Of course, you cannot touch this movie without giving credit to the score, which received barely a mention in the stage production. However once they decided to bring this musical to the screen, with a huge studio backing it, the music became the movie. Interestingly enough, it is one of the few movies that can be identified by the music alone~~weirdly in the same group as the Halloween series, Jaws, Grease, etc., when you hear it, you know it. Couple this with the choreography, you have a memorable movie that, even with its' violence (nothing compared to today's fare), could be good family entertainment.

While we are on choreography, a nod in their direction. The fact that the scenes have been used in many commercials (most notable ‘The Gap') attests to the fact that this musical is accepted by all. The dance scene at the gym was both flippant and energetic and the fight scene powerful.

A big thumbs up on the whole dang thing!

The Sharks, The Jets, The Broads and Maria
Natalie Wood, Richard Beymer, Russ Tamblyn, Rita Moreno, George Chakiris, and my picks - "Scooter" Teague and Harvey Hohnecker as ‘mouthpiece'



Recommended:
Yes

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More West Side Story reviews
review by . May 02, 2011
In my opinion, the film version of West Side Story is and will always be the best retelling of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Surprisingly, this means telling the story is best done with songs and modern language. Those who don't like musicals will be instantly put off by this movie, but those who do like musicals will be very pleased with this one because it is definitley one of the best movie musicals ever made, mostly due to its brilliant choreography, great songs/singing, and its timeless …
review by . December 09, 2005
posted in Movie Hype
I first saw this movie at age of 12 and it is just as powerful now as it was nearly 19 years ago. Bernstein's and Sondheim's score is brilliant, Robbins' choreography is superb, and Rita Moreno's performance in a supporting role is still etched in my mind. The mambo number is an explosion of color and movement, and I still find myself humming "I feel pretty." Natalie Wood shines as Maria, even though we were spared her natural singing voice.  The quality of the music and lyrics blends …
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About this movie

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The original 1957 Broadway production, directed and choreographed by Jerome Robbins and produced by Robert E. Griffith and Harold Prince, marked Stephen Sondheim's Broadway debut. It ran for 732 performances (a successful run for the time), before going on tour.

The production received a Tony Award nomination for Best Musical in 1957, but the award went to Meredith Willson's The Music Man. It won a Tony Award in 1957 for Robbins' choreography. The show had an even longer-running London production, a number of revivals and international success.

The production spawned an innovative, award-winning 1961 musical film of the same name, directed by Robert Wise and Robbins, starring Natalie Wood, Richard Beymer, Rita Moreno, George Chakiris, and Russ Tamblyn. It won ten Academy Awards out of eleven nominations. The stage musical is produced frequently by schools, regional theatres, and occasionally by opera companies.
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