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Tonight, Tonight... We're Deep Diving into "West Side Story"

It will probably come as no surprise to those of you who know us as the Pop Culture Passionistas that one of our greatest loves is musical theater. Unfortunately, COVID cocooning has kept us out of orchestra seats at the Pantages Theatre or a flight to Broadway to check out "The Strange Loop" or "Paradise Square." But every year, watching the Tony Awards reminds us to break out some of our favorite old school musicals and let our inner musical theater geek flags fly.

While we love a lot of the new shows on the Great White Way, we have to admit that we always gravitate to the classic shows first and foremost. Between Ariana DeBose's turn as host at this year's Tonys and Chita Rivera joining her on stage to announce the award for Best Musical, we were inspired by these two powerhouse women to have the original cast recording of "West Side Story" on a perpetual loop for days now. Watching the first and most recent actresses to play Anita on screen was a total treat.

For those who don't know, the show is inspired by William Shakespeare's tragic love story "Romeo and Juliet." Arthur Laurents would have made the Bard of Stratford on Avon proud with all the twists and turns he packed into his 1950s New York version of the romantic tale. But it's the music and lyrics by Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim that have made every version of this show iconic.

We started our recent deep dive with the Broadway version of the West Side Story (Original Soundtrack) before graduating to the CD from the 1961 film, which starred Natalie Wood as Maria and Richard Beymer as her star-crossed lover, Tony.

Both are great but we'll always have a soft spot for the big screen adaptation, which has perhaps some of the greatest choreography of all time by the legendary Jerome Robbins. Needless to say, that led us down the rabbit hole of watching the West Side Story Blu-ray of Robert Wise's film, which won 10 Academy Awards in 1962 including Best Picture, Best Director for Wise and Robins, Best Actor in a Supporting Role for George Chakiris and Best Actress in a Supporting Role for Rita Moreno.

Don't get us wrong, we loved Stephen Spielberg's 2021 re-imagining of "West Side Story." He took a fresh approach to the material while paying homage to Wise’s masterpiece. But for us, it's impossible to top the original film. If you've never seen this cinematic masterpiece, we highly recommend that you get the 50th Anniversary Edition and watch it, well, "Tonight, tonight," of course.


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