West Side Story

The original “West Side Story” is a quintessential classic that your parents probably love. Debuting on Broadway in 1957, the Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim product hit the silver screen in 1961, starring the likes of Rita Moreno, Natalie Wood, Richard Beymer and George Chakiris.

The movie was a smash success and gave a more modern telling of a story similar to “Romeo and Juliet.”

The musical’s message is about how love prevails, and while this theme isn’t uncommon in movies, Steven Spielberg’s 2021 adaptation fixes some of the mistakes of the beloved 1961 classic.

Perhaps the most glaring and welcomed change is doing away with whitewashing in the film.

Moreno was the lone Puerto Rican actress in the original that’s supposed to be half-centered on the Puerto Rican gang, the Sharks. The original has been repeatedly looked down upon for using brownface and playing into incorrect Puerto Rican stereotypes.

This new film, though, can finally be the perfect big-budget retelling of a story that has woven its way into the hearts of so many. Will it reach this potential? That’s yet to be seen.

Outside factors will have an influence on the movie. Ansel Elgort, the film’s Tony, has recently found himself in the middle of sexual assault allegations, which he has denied, but it could make for an uncomfortable viewing for some.

The impact this adaptation of the classic could have, though, is astronomical. Getting anyone 16 years or younger to watch a movie from the 1960s is no easy feat, but with a reimagining coupled with recognizable faces, Spielberg’s adaptation could inspire a new generation just as it did for so many of our parents before.

The movie’s timing also adds to its lore, as the musical’s lyricist Sondheim died in late November, just weeks before its premiere.

Sondheim was a musical giant, having composed the music of “Into the Woods,” “A Little Night Music,” “Sweeney Todd” and “Sunday in the Park with George,” with “West Side Story” being his most notable by far.

Some may say that it’s an overdone story that doesn’t need a remake, and to an extent you might be able to get me to agree. Most remakes of classic movies often feel like cheap, box office cash grabs, and that could very well be the case, too.

But if there was ever a musical that needed to be done right, it should be “West Side Story.”

Without all the baggage of the first film, Spielberg’s take has the opportunity to leave a lasting imprint and become, for the umpteenth time in its history, a smash success.

The story of Tony and Maria and the Jets and the Sharks paired with a legendary director sounds good on paper.

Now it’s time for them to make good on a promise to those who wanted the story to better reflect themselves and their communities.

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