West Side Story

magic show

West Side Story - The musical film of America is actually an adaptation of the Broadway musical with the same name. The film was directed by the famous duos Jerome Robbins and Robert Wise. Robert Wise was selected to direct the movie understanding his acquaintance with the urban dramas of New York. He also had experience of staging the popular New York drama 'Odds Against Tomorrow,' which was counted as a big plus.

However, he had no experience of staging a musical Broadway Show and that is why Jerome Robbins was selected to assist him. The ending title of the movie was selected by Saul Bass who was also credited as the visual consultant of the film.

West Side Story - The Inspiration

One of William Shakespeare's famous dramas - Romeo and Juliet is regarded as the main inspiration of both the musical Broadway and of the movie as well. Other directors have represented the same story in different ways and the latest one is the "Save Last Dance for Me" - which is a musical romance. However, no other version of the story was as popular as the West Side Story. Imaginative staging of the movie, the outstanding choreography by Jerome Robins and the famous tracks written by Stephen Sondheim, all these together made the movie a grand success. The movie highlighted different social issues and racial prejudice is the most important of these all, which cause deep hurt to the society inwardly. And the dancers were majestic in their performance, all very fit.

What the Two Acts Say

The musical film is divided in two acts and both acts cover interesting parts of the famous drama. The first act of the film opens in the Manhattan Streets of the West Side. The film was marketed in the year 1957. The racial tension that continued between the two clans of Manhattan - The Jets (Popular as American White Gang) and the Sharks (Immigrants from Puerto Rico) was described through music. The rest of the act describes how the two different races used to harass each other and how a love relationship developed between Maria and Tony (representing Romeo and Juliet) who are from those two rival clans.

The later part shows how the relationship between the boy and the girl matured with time and how they tried hard to solve the issues between the two races to establish their relationship. Anita, Maria's friend and Riff, Tony's friend, soon became their rivals. Both of them tried to help Tony and Maria understand that Sharks and Jets can never be friends and no one will accept their relation gladly. Rather this will lead to a racial war and mass killing of innocent people. However, nothing could stop these two hearts that were so involved in each other and ignoring all the issues they continued loving each other. Finally, Tony had to be penalized for his love as he was killed by one of the sharks. Maria tried to commit suicide but couldn't and lives the rest of her life pining for the lost love.

How the Movie Is Different From The Broadway Show

When the musical Broadway Show was popular, directors decided to make a movie from the same story. However, some essential changes were done to increase the entertainment value of the movie. Let's see how the movie is different from the stage show:

  • The opening scene of the Broadway Show and movie are different as in the Broadway an A-rab gets beaten by the sharks but in the movie, the sharks chase Baby John to influence the Jets into fighting.
  • The lyrics of the tracks, found in the theater version were changed significantly following the commercial issue, related to movie marketing in mind.
  • During the stage show, Rosalie and Anita sing the beginning song and no male voice is found in the movie version of the song. Critics say that male participants didn't follow the schedule mentioned by the directors and the directors rejected them only to punish the participants.

About the Soundtrack

Leonard Bernstein was not pleased with the movie orchestration done by Irwin Kostal and Sid Ramin. The duo had also orchestrated the actual Broadway production. Later he appointed 30 more musicians to orchestrate the movie version of the story. Bernstein commented negatively about Kostal and Ramin saying that their creation lacked in subtlety and texture.

Garth Edwin created a closer score of the Broadway version of West Side story to celebrate its 50th anniversary. During the anniversary celebration, all the cast was honored in the Ventura festival of 2011. The film was rewarded with 10 academic awards and in 1997, it was selected to be preserved in the national film registry of America.