West Side Story is a modern, 1961 revision of
Romeo and Juliet, and takes place in a rough neighborhood in New
York City. Two rival gangs, the Jets, and the Puerto Rican Sharks
are fighting over territory. One of the founding members of the
Jets, Tony (Richard Beymer), who really isn't interested in the
gang as a family anymore, meets Maria (Natalie Wood), who happens
to be the younger sister of the Shark's leader, Bernardo (George
Chakiris). They fall in love, over the objections of the rival
gangs, with tragic results.
George Chakiris, as Bernardo , won the Best Supporting
Rita Moreno, as Bernardo's girlfriend, Anita,
won the Best Supporting Actress award.
This musical has everything that a great musical
should have: a powerful story, a great cast, dynamite music, fantastic
dancing sequences, great transitions, great direction, great photography
and great ensemble and individual work. All these terrific attributes
more than make up for it's 1960's pacing, which, in the middle
of the film, is slower than the popular standard set by the fast-paced
"Star Wars" style editing.
This musical holds up extremely well do to a
variety of factors. What is really fantastic is the excellent
musical score, and musical numbers, that were both created by
the master, Leonard Bernstein, who in his earlier years was composing
symphonies, and concert pieces for the classical music genre.
Through the songs, the story is told in an entertaining way, and
connects the plot developments without a hitch, giving the movie
a flowing pace.
The Jets' opening song, "When You're a Jet"
tells the joys and privileges of belonging to a gang, many of
which today's gang members would agree. "America" expresses
the views of the Puerto Ricans. Some of the songs expressing the
love of Tony and Maria, are "Tonight," "Maria,"
"I Feel Pretty," and "Somewhere." It's no
wonder that Bernstein won an Oscar for best musical score.