Tuesday, January 10, 2012

west side story

More broadway! Are you ready?
About....let's see...about five years ago, Jamie Bernstein - daughter of composer Leonard Bernstein - came to here for a fundraiser for one of our local highschools. Yes, it was early '07 I think...so yeah, five years ago. At the end of the Peter and the Wolf concert-thinga-ma-jigger that she narrated, the band played "America" as sort of a tribute to her father. Not the from-sea-to-shining-sea one....the wall-to-wall-floors-in-America one. :) I LOVED it. I remember sitting up in the top of the Preforming Arts Center, tapping my toes and pulling on Mama asking what the song was.

That night, Dad found the WSS dvd we had, and they showed us the community center dance scene (boy meets girl) and "America."
Ever since that day, I've had a desire to see West Side Story - all the way through. 

This weekend, I finally got my wish! Mama, Dad, Leia and I sat down for two and a half hours stuffing Christmas cards into envelopes (no, they're still not mailed - oops!) and watching this very tragic musical.

My parents (Mom especially) don't *normally* sing along to anything. Just don't. But for some reason, it was different with WSS. Dad sang nearly every song along with the characters (quietly of course, to avoid the evil eye *wink*) and Mama was humming the songs all during the day leading up to that night. Very interesting.

So, onto the musical itself.

It's Romeo and Juliet - and you'd be surprised at how faithful it sticks to the story. I actually *knew* what was going to happen next. Sort of. Honestly, I thought the characters were more interesting in West Side Story.

Bernardo. You can't say it "Berr-nar-do." Try this: "Bearr-narrd-o" and roll the "r". Splendid! <3
Really the best big brother I've seen on screen in a long time. He's protective of his lovely little sister Maria (roll that "r" - "marr-eyah"). She doesn't always appreciate it, though.

He's the leader of the Sharks - the gang of Puerto Ricans trying to make their way in America. They're having a rough time of it though, because of the gang of New Yorkers who feel like the Sharks are trespassing their street. 
One rather interesting thing is the amount of spontaneous dancing by the gang members. They even fight with ballet. It took a little getting used to. *wry grin*

This is part of the American gang. See the guy flying high in the middle with the yellow jacket? It's Riff, the Jets leader. 

The problem comes with Maria meets Tony, a former Jet, at a dance. Tony's not a member of the Jets anymore because he really just grew out of the whole gang thing and - to quote his friend - got a stinkin' job. :) But he showed up at the dance to back up his buddy-like-brother, Riff.
Tony's a delivery boy - and that's a coke he's holding. *chuckle*

Which is too bad, really.

From then on, it's Romeo and Juliet through and through.
"Tonight, tonight, it all began tonight/I saw you and the world went away...."

Beeyoutiful song!

The whole bridal shop sequence ("I Feel Pretty" and "One Hand, One Heart") is probably my favorite stretch in the whole thing. Maria is so bouncy and lively and happy. And she "plays" like I do :) Which is actually realistic, since we're about the same age. *yikes!*

"I feel pretty, oh so pretty! I feel pretty and witty and gay!"

And then Tony comes, and it's all sweet from there :) I *love* their play-acting. *This* is the part where I got a little teary-eyed and had chills up my spine. I love how they made Anita and Riff part of their wedding party. "Look! Mama's crying already!"

"Make of our lives, one life/Day after day, one life..."
But their story doesn't end with that lovely song of hope for the future.

There's a war on, and Riff wants help.

Speaking of Riff, this is one of my best victories. I LOVE spotting actors in different movies when most people can't tell that it's the same person. Hard to explain, but here's the idea. Take a good look at the picture below on the *left*. That's Riff, the Jets leader. See the picture to the right? That's Gideon Pontipee, youngest brother of seven in the musical Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. Same actor: Russ Tamblyn. *bingo!*
Well, it's showdown time. Jets and Sharks agree to a Rumble. Whoever wins is the best, and the war for the street stops. Before each gang goes to the meeting place to have the council, they sing songs about why they are the way they are - sort of. Two of the funniest songs in the whole musical, I assure you!

The immigrant Sharks and their girls - lead by Bernardo's girlfriend Anita - sing "America" - highlighting the pros and cons of living in a city where they have more opportunity, but are discriminated against.

And meanwhile, the "juvenile delinquent" Jets sing "Gee, Officer Krupke" - a romp making fun of the way officials try to rationalize their behavior :) They also frankly explain why they're on the street. "I'm not anti-social, I'm only anti-work..."

Level-headed, yet in-love Tony jumps into the council in time to keep the war from being fought with guns or knives. "Fair fight!"

But both groups come armed....just in case.

Well, the "in case" part accidentally happens.

If you know your Romeo and Juliet, you know that two guys die.

Then, this is the part I have a leetle problem with. When Maria learns Tony is the one who killed her brother, she's upset, naturally...but not for very long. She doesn't even look *sad* that 'Nardo is dead. Anita is more emotional. Maria just says that she loves Tony this, and loves Tony that, and when he climbs into her room from the fire escape (!!!) she yells at him for ten whoppin' seconds and then just cries. And ummm...he stays in her room all night *polite cough*

And it goes on....Chino, Maria's jealous suitor, is enraged because of Bernardo's death and grabs a gun to roam the streets in search of Tony. At the same time, the Jets try to calm their emotion at the death of Riff and seek vengeance on the Sharks. Anita tries to deliver a message from Maria to Tony and ends up getting hassled by the Jets and, out of spite, tells them to tell Tony that Chino shot Maria. Which is false.

And we're all set up for the heartbreaking finale.

Contrary to my normal musical-watching attitude, I didn't cry at the end. I just felt sad and sorry that three strong young men had to die so young - without any of their dreams really coming true. And the reason I felt so sad about it was that there really was, and is, gang war-fare in large cities. Young people do get killed...and that's really sad.

But anyway.

West Side Story was just what I'd hoped it would be - better in some cases. There were parts I didn't like (the rumble and Antia being roughed in particular), but overall, I enjoyed it. The songs are fantastic. Some of the lyrics aren't as epic as Les Mis or Phantom, but they are right up my alley. Literally. *wink* Lots of Spanish :)
So, if you're ready, give it a shot! (but not literally! *wink*)


  1. Oh,I watched this movie this year,cause I was auditioning for a play that was doing West Side Story. I was so upset that they killed Bernardo,he was on of my favorites. Wasn't he an awesome big brother,Maria made me a little upset on her stupidity,I mean its okay to forgive that guy that killed your brother,but after like 10 minutes she wasn't really upset any more about her brothers death.And I would forgive him,but I wouldn't want to really marry him the next day.

  2. I love that musical. It's really different from the rest of them. And the music's fantastic...

    Oh, and you actually recognized the actor! Nice. I looked him up. And found out that way. :P Yeah, I'm not quite as good as you...


  3. Hmm... it sounds interesting. And gang members randomly dancing - yeah, I'd have to get used to that. :)

    Oh, and that movie review on "Christmas in Connecticut" inspired us to find it from our library. We just watched it last night. I loved it. And Uncle Felix... he is too funny!! :D Thanks for recommending it. :)


  4. Ahhhh!!! LOVE THIS MOVIE! (in a pretty major way :P) Actually Mom, KK, Emma and I watched it (not for the first time) the night before Sammy was born while Pa finished the nursery (just in the nick of time, right? *chuckle* Typical Wachter :)) Anyway, you know how I go for tragic and Broadway, so I guess it's kinda a natural "gonna love it" movie.

    Oh. My. Goodness. Your family never sings along with movies??? We never shut up during musicals (or any movie for that matter)! Ha! That's why when we were watching Casablanca with you we kept shushing each other...we figure not everyone likes people talking all through a movie :)) Pa and Mom gave us the Muppet Movie soundtrack for Christmas and we already have all the lyrics memorized so we can sing along when we *finally* see it. It just enhances the experience that much more :D "I've got everything that I need right in front of me!"...I digress. :)

    On that note, it's great knowing someone else who adores everything Broadway as much as KK and I do...we've been hooked since we were five or six but didn't think there was anyone else who appreciated a good musical...ha!

    Love ya!

  5. Ohhh, I love love LOVE West Side Story! (especially all the songs) Hmm...possibly one to add to our list of potential-movies-for-whenever-we-do-another-movie-night.

    "I feel charming, oh so charming! It's alarming how charming I feeeeeeellll....!!"

  6. {Blythe} - I know!!! Definitely not the course of action I would've followed. Good thing I'm not Maria *wink*

    {Vivi} - Didn't Mrs. Gorby reference West Side Story in our Romeo and Juliet study last year? I thought she did....

    {Stephanie} - I'm glad you enjoyed Christmas in Conneticut! It's definitely a funny one :)

    {Nana} - *I* sing with movies, and so do most of my siblings, but Mama and Dad *NEVER* do. Except West Side Story and Sound of Music. Go figure. *shakes head*
    I am the *biggest* Broadway junkie I've personally ever met - to date, I haven't seen one I didn't like. And I end up tracing differents shows on tour and West End as well, and call them all "Broadway" :D

    {Gab} - "and so pretty, that I hardly can believe I'm real!" :)