West Side Story

West Side Story

Static Mass Rating: 5/5
Park Circus

Release date: September 16th, 2011
Certificate (UK): PG
Running time: 151 minutes

Year of production: 1961

Directors: Robert Wise, Jerome Robbins
Writer: Ernest Lehman
Music: Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim

Cast: Natalie Wood, Richard Beymer, Russ Tamblyn, Rita Moreno, George Chakiris, Ned Glass, John Astin, Bill Bramley

Few musicals have risen to the stature of West Side Story. There’s just something infectious about it.

Whether it’s the finger-snapping, toe-tapping numbers, the frantic choreography, the bursting colour of the outfits or the energetic spin it gives to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly, but it continues to outlast them all decade after decade.

West Side Story

It’s the classic story of a love affair between Tony (Richard Beymer) and Maria (Natalie Wood), with the backdrop of a gang war between the Jets and the Sharks. The lovers are caught on opposite sides with Maria being the sister of Bernardo (George Chakiris), the leader of the Sharks and Tony being the best friend of Riff (Russ Tamblyn), the leader of the Jets.

With the American teenagers pitted against the Puerto Rican immigrants, West Side Story is also about the gap between the haves and have-nots, about overcoming prejudices, social divides and deeply rooted racist sentiments which were still rife in the land of the free at the time.

West Side Story

As the lovers are drawn closer and closer to each other, the violence around them threatens to tear them apart, as with the Montagues and the Capulets in Romeo and Juliet. The only thing they can do is try to unite both sides and get them to see reason; that hate only leads to more hate.

When Tony heads down to intervene during another senseless and frustrating conflict between the Jets and Sharks it inadvertently leads to more bloodshed on the streets of New York until finally it’s Maria’s heartbreaking speech that brings the war to an end.

West Side Story

With its 10 Academy Awards, West Side Story is still a force to be reckoned with and its influence can still be felt today. From its fashion, to its choreography it lives on, but perhaps most strongest is its music and lyrics Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim which fused together jazz, Latin and classical elements to create an unforgettable soundtrack of its time.

Today West Side Story feels both as timeless and somehow now relevant as ever as it gets another run at UK cinemas with a newly restored version, compelte with the original intermission for its 50th anniversay.

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