“West Side Story”: The 2021 Adaptation

Photo courtesy westsidestory.com

We’ve all heard of “West Side Story”; the classic, iconic, world-renowned 1957 Sondheim musical with numerous adaptations. Buckle up because we’re about to get another, this time directed by none other than the award-winning director Stephen Spielberg. 

It’s apparent from the trailer that Spielberg is directing. The haunting, dark feeling, along with the choice in musical overlay in the trailer is very characteristic of his films. It’s clear that Spielberg wants people to know that it’s his. This is most likely because of the 2020 revival (pre-covid, now canceled) on broadway; completely different from the West Side we know. It was adapted for a modern audience with changes such as cutting the iconic snapping choreography and the song “I Feel Pretty”. 

This show has a record of changing with each new adaptation. The 1961 film is vastly different from the original Broadway show it was derived from, and the 2009 Broadway revival production added more Spanish to the script and songs. It has even made appearances in pop culture such as the Disney movie “Teen Beach Movie”, where the whole premise of the film is the main characters getting stuck in a movie called “Wet Side Story”, an obvious parody of “West Side Story”. Spielberg no doubt wants his take on the show to stand out and be easily identifiable.

For all you 1961 film fans don’t worry, Rita Moreno (the 1961 Anita) will be making an appearance in the role of Valentina. For all the “Hamilton” and “The Prom” fans our new Anita will be the breakout broadway star Ariana DeBose. Spielberg’s “West Side Story” has an overall star-studded cast with Rachel Zegler as Maria, “Fault In Our Stars” lead Ansel Elgort as Tony, and Ben Cook (Broadway’s “Newsies”).

The choreographer Justin Peck is one of the most sought-after ballet dance makers in the world. He’s known for his traditional ballet as well as ballet that smashes and transcends conventional ideas and methods- exactly what this movie needs if it wants to stand out but still pay homage to its roots. To add to this fantastic production staff is the Tony-winning costume designer Paul Tazewell. He’s known for his work on “Hamilton”, “The Wiz! Live”, and “The Color Purple”. That’s right, Tazwell is the one behind the iconic Schyler sister dresses. From the trailer, we can already form an idea of what the costuming will look like. Anita’s stunning yellow dress in the trailer is a good indication of the costuming coming our way. For more information about the cast and creative team, you can visit the “West Side Story” website.

So will this be our best adaptation of “West Side Story” yet? Only time will tell. It’s already making itself out to be different from the West Side our parents and grandparents know. Hopefully, it’s for the better. The film comes out on December 10 with an exclusively theatrical release.