This is Michelle here. Today’s Throwback Thursday is going out to my favorite musical of all time, and a film that transcends the screen and into my world on more ways than I could report.
West Side Story tells the story of two opposing gangs, the Puerto Rican Sharks and the American Jets in New York and their navigation around the city without crossing paths. When two members of each “family” meet at the local mambo and fall in love, things heat up between the parties. Sound familiar? That’s because it’s virtually the story of Romeo and Juliet. It’s magical though. The music is big and profound and drives the basic narrative of star-crossed lovers at full speed. The dance numbers are spectacular, and the colors that accompany them are vibrant.
I love West Side Story, because it tells a story that seems familiar, but might be hard to comprehend if you’ve never experienced the trials of not being accepted by the people in your lover’s life. I used to joke around about how West Side Story is what I use when I explain my biracial background of being Puerto Rican and Italian as if my families danced around in carefully curated dance segments and finally allowed love in. That’s not the case, but a girl can dream right.
If you’ve never claimed yourself a fan of musicals, don’t think this aligns itself with others. In all it’s singing and dancing and elaborate scenes, there is a digestible love story that is beautifully portrayed by Natalie Wood as Maria and Richard Beymer as Tony. The supporting roles of Anita, Bernardo, Riff, and Officer Krupke are dynamic and brilliantly played by their actors. The film was nominated for eleven Oscars, and walked away with ten awards including the Best Picture statue. It’s inspired a ton of pop culture references and tributes, including Fox’s Glee. It’s also a film I hold dearly to my heart because I used to watch it with my grandmother as a child. It’s the film that kickstarted my love of musicals and theater. It’s also a film that showed me the lyricism of film and the magic of the camera.
My favorite scene from this film and song I reference almost daily is America as performed by the incredible Rita Moreno, who is in the exclusive EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony) crew. Watch the clip below.