"It’s alarming how charming I feel…" --Maria, 'West Side Story'

Film Amazingly, saw West Side Story for the first time tonight and although my media buffeted attention span miniaturized brain thought it was just slightly too long (which would probably be less of an issue if I'd seen it in a cinema where it was originally intended to be seen) I absolutely understand why its considered a classic of its form. I've just discovered that the original stage production is fifty years old this year but everything about the music somehow remains fresh and modern. Here, Mark Steyn considers its origins:
"The year before West Side, My Fair Lady opened, cleaving to the rules of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical play and doing it so spectacularly that, afterwards, the form had nowhere else to go. West Side symbolised the possibilities of the future: New stories told in new ways. West Side doesn't have an opening number as such, just a wordless musical "Prologue" to accompany the Sharks and Jets as they dance out - or mime - their increasing hostility until, finally, the Shark leader cuts off the ear of a Jet. Never mind waiting for Pauline Kael to pronounce it dated, on its very opening night it risked sniggers: the gentlemen of the chorus nancying about pretending to be tough guys. But the audience bought it: Jerome Robbins, Broadway's master stager, proved you could tell a story about gang warfare through show dancing."
It certainly can. It's a bit of trust between the audience and the film or production -- that we're watching a fantasy set in a world with different rules about social interaction. This may be going a bit too far though.

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