‘West Side Story’ sweet goodbye, end of Hollywood musical magic


Ansel Elgort and Rachel Zegler in “West Side Story” 2021. picture IMDb

It’s here. For this critic and ex-New Yorker who saw the Broadway musical before it opened, walked his dog through the rubble that became Lincoln Center, watched Jerome Robbins’ early dance sketches at City Center Ballet and thanks to my life in all these places, I come with legitimate credentials and strong opinions.

I never hated the original film but for the brilliant Rita Moreno who is still a star. I was not carried away.

Will a Spielberg or Miranda or anyone else ever attempt a remake of “Singing In The Rain”, recast the dancing sailors in “On The Town”, or try to recreate the sweet blush of ” Gigi?” Do we even want them to?

Leonard Bernstein’s music and Stephen Sondheim’s lyrics are like precious jewels, even if they are in dumpsters. They will shine forever.

Steven Spielberg, a hollywood legend, and the great writer-playwright Tony Kushner, as well as Justin Peck’s choreography, can’t be faulted. They are professionals.

But we just came out of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Least Effort “In The Heights,” with Puerto Rican kids dancing in the middle of traffic, where I didn’t see much sweat or smell hot tostones.

Players? Rachel ZeglerMaria The half-Colombian, New York-raised actress is perfect as the fresh-hit Maria.

She’s ultra charming, talented and heartbreaking in her final scenes, so much better than Natalie Wood’s painted ‘color’, Richard Beymer’s Tony stiffness and George Chakiris’ Bernardo.

Ariana DeBose (“Bullet” in “Hamilton”) as Anita (Rita Moreno’s former role) doesn’t speak Spanish, but you could be fooling me. She is sharp as a razor.

Ansel Elgort as “Tony” did his best and I hope to become a good actor, but his Tony looked like he had just gotten off the train from the sweet tree-lined streets of Chappaqua. Fresh out of jail? Where does this come from? No one leaves Riker Island in New York without facial scars.

David Alvarez’s Bernardo gave a boost of realism that erased George Chakiris’s Bernardo.

For my two cents, the very real Corey Stoll (“House of Cards” “Billions”) as Lt. Schrank in the gritty opening shot, stole the opening scenes with gritty Old Quarter talk.

Spielberg’s reputation will not be tarnished by this effort. His CV is printed on linen and engraved in the history of cinema.

And then there’s Rita, the imperial Moreno, who enriches this version as “Doc”, the lady of the candy store.

This is Rita Moreno, who after winning the Oscar for “Anita” in the original film, did not work for eight years. Count them. EIGHT YEARS.

Rita is a legend and there is nothing more I can add to a legend.

Stream “West Side Story” on Disney+ and HBO Max.

JP Devine from Waterville is a former theater and film actor.


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