I don’t like musicals. I like the music in many of them, but I just can’t appreciate singing and dancing through a visual medium. West Side Story included.
My wife, however, loved musicals. She went to see West Side Story a number of times when it first hit the big screen in 1961. I skipped the show. When VCRs came to be, one of her first acquisitions was West Side Story and, of course, I was stuck on the couch watching it — or at least pretending to. As VCRs gave way to DVRs, it was again a quick buy and another attempt to get me to watch it with her. I think I fell asleep during the first finger-snapping introduction of the Jets and the Sharks.
In my defense, I do like some musicals, especially Damn Yankees and Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. I think it’s because there was more live action between the singing and choreography.
So, I never really watched West Side Story. I knew the plot — an inner city 1950s Romeo and Juliet story. I knew the songs — Maria, Tonight, I Feel Pretty, Somewhere. I knew there was lots of dancing to go along with the singing.
For some unknown reason, however, I decided to tape a Turner Movie Classics replay of West Side Story. The other day — I emphasize day as opposed to evening — I watched the flick in its entirety. I found myself singing along with some of the songs. I found myself laughing at how ridiculous the actors looked as they slithered around the set “fighting” in the rumbles. I found myself following the storyline and comparing how the gang mentality of the 50s compared and contrasted to this millennium.
As I concentrated on the plot, the film made sense. Cultural biases. The irrationality of violence. Gang mentality. It wasn’t half bad — especially if you could tune out the singing and dancing. It would have been a good drama.
THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: We don’t need to focus on changing the world; we need to change ourselves; for in changing ourselves, we will, to a degree, be changing the world!