WEST SIDE STORY SPIELBERG. Steven Spielberf offers a new adaptation of West Side Story, a classic Broadway musical. What are the differences with the first adaptation of 1961?
[Mis à jour le 09 décembre 2021 à 9h13] Steven spielberg modernizes West Side Story, a musical classic. More than sixty years after the play premiered on Broadway in 1957 and after a first adaptation in 1961, this new take on Tony and Maria’s troubled romance hit theaters on December 8, 2021. If the story logically doesn’t change , the filmmaker brings his own vision by touch, making his message ever more current.
Before Steven Spielberg, Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins adapted West Side Story for film. Their film, which brought together Natalie Wood, Rita Moreno, Richard Beymer and George Chakiris, was released in 1961 and won ten Oscars the following year. In theaters this December 8, 2021, Steven Spielberg’s version has differences with its predecessor from the 1961s, the filmmaker to whom we owe ET or Jurassic Park having chosen to make a remake not of the film, but of the musical comedy original. Below is the list of the differences between the 1961 version and the 2021 version (without major spoilers):
- Doc is replaced by Valentina : The major difference that Steven Spielberg’s film makes compared to the 1961 film, and even to the musical, is the disappearance of the character of Doc. The character of the manager of the drugstore in which Tony works is replaced by his widow, a certain Valentina. Rita Moreno (Oscar winner for the role of Anita in the 1961 version) plays this Puerto Rican who took Tony under her wing and serves as his guide and protector throughout his adventure. The objective stated here by Spielberg and screenwriter Tony Kushner was to bridge the 1961 version with the 2021 version, in order to implicitly create a bridge between these two eras.
- Tony’s past is made explicit : in the 1961 version, Tony is a young man of good family, friend of Riff but away from the Jets. In Spielberg’s version, the rift between the protagonist and the gang is made explicit: Tony gets out of prison and tries to stay on the right track, despite his friendship with the leader of the Jets.
- Real actors of Latin American origin play the Sharks: When reviewing the West Side Story from 1961, one thing is particularly dated and disturbing: some white actors were cast to play Puerto Ricans, and were made up for the occasion. This is the case of George Chakiris, American actor with Greek origins, who plays Bernardo. In Steven Spielberg’s film, only actors of Latin American origin play the Sharks. Rachel Zegler (Maria) has Colombian and Polish Jewish origins; Ariana DeBose (Anita) is an American actress of Afro-Puerto Rican descent; David Alvarez (Bernardo) is a Cuban Canadian comedian by his parents.
- A reflection on immigration and the more current place of women. Steven Spielberg has taken the original subject of West Side Story to modernize it and put it in the current context. The social purpose of the musical (immigration, poverty, gentrification, social violence…) is much more supported. Added to this is a more in-depth subject than the 1961 film on misogyny and the place of women in society. We will not tell you more so as not to reveal elements of the plot.
- The order of the songs changes. Fans of the 1961 film might be surprised at the order of songs chosen from Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story. If the sequences are all present, they are not all linked in the same order. Spielberg kept the original order of the Broadway musical, not the movie. Another Change that fans of the musical will no doubt notice: “Somewhere” is no longer performed by Maria and Tony, but by Rita Moreno (Valentina). In the press kit, screenwriter Tony Kushner justifies this decision as follows: “I liked the idea of hearing Rita Moreno sing it. I felt that it would create a strong link between the era portrayed by the musical and ours to hear this song of hope and aspiration for a better world sung by a woman who has been a witness and an important actor in the tormented world in which we live “.
- Anybodys character: in the 1957 musical and its 1961 adaptation, Anybodys is a tomboy who wants to join the Jets at all costs. In the West Side Story of …