My history with West Side Story goes back decades. In high school, the suite (arranged for band) was frequently performed; in university I played clarinet and alto saxophone in the pit, as a writer I have referenced it dozens of times on these pages.
Seeing it again in 2021, readily reminded me of the still continuing racism, gang wars, cross-culture loves and desire to dance at the drop of a hat, knife, or body.
Without a doubt, the real stars of the show are Leonard Bernstein’s memorable score and Stephen Sondheim’s captivating lyrics.
Sadly, the vocal contributions (real or dubbed) are the weakest elements—notably the “in search of pitch” men’s chorus and Tony’s (Richard Beymer) solos.
No worries: Jerome Robbins’s brilliant, always engaging choreography keeps the eye engaged even if the ear is not.
Somewhere, William Shakespeare is smiling (and, no doubt, wondering where his royalties are), as this remake of Romeo and Juliet continues to make thoughtful viewers wonder why we must hate anyone who is not “us”.
The closing credits on inner-city walls are a marvel all unto themselves. JWR