‘West Side Story’ adapted into film

Courtesy of West Side Story

The Jets and the Sharks will be dancing their way into the 21st century in Steven Spielberg’s remake of the 1957 classic, “West Side Story.”

Like many musical-film adaptations before it, “West Side Story” is the newest theatrical crossover scheduled to hit theaters in the coming years.

News of the musical “West Side Story” being adapted into a movie started in 2018. 

“West Side Story” is set in 1950s New York City and tells the tale of two rival gangs, the Jets and Sharks. In the midst of their feuding, the two protagonists, Tony and Maria, fall in love even though they are in opposite gangs which inadvertently leads to a series of tragic events.

It was announced that actor Ansel Elgort will be playing Tony and Rachel Zegler will be playing Maria. Zegler, only a high school student, was discovered from a viral video of her singing Lady Gaga’s song “Shallow” from the 2018 hit “A Star is Born.”

Michael Eaton, professor of film, said the success of this remake hinges on one thing: passion.

“The passion for the genre that Damian Chazelle and Tom Hooper showed in ‘La La Land’ (2017) and ‘Les Miserables’ (2012) is the key ingredient for any project in any genre. I think that the success of both of these films was … instrumental in reviving the genre in Hollywood, along with the fact that the musicals on Broadway have been successful,” Eaton said. “Hollywood is very much interested in built-in audiences, so they’re hoping that everyone who saw ‘Wicked’ (2003) on the stage, for example, will see it on the screen.”

Sarah Bare, sophomore theater major, said “West Side Story” is a classic among other musicals and, since its first run on Broadway, has helped shape the theater community.

“I heard rumors that Spielberg was making an adaptation and I’m interested to see how it turns out. I have been listening to the music from ‘West Side Story’ for a long time, and I’ve watched the 1961 film. I am definitely a big fan,” Bare said. “(The musical) represents a big movement in theater and is an excellent example of theater being used as a means of social commentary, which is fantastic.”

The full casting of the movie is still being announced and production for the new musical movie is set to start in  summer 2019.

Irene Pineda, junior liberal studies major, said Hollywood adapting famous musicals into movies is a great way for people to get interested in theater.

“Hollywood should continue to adapt these world-renowned musicals into movies because they’re expanding and shaping their audience to know them. It gives those who are not familiar with musicals a chance to better understand what musicals, are,” Pineda said. “Most of the musicals I know were because of the movie adaptations such as ‘Les Misérables’ (2012), ‘Rent’ (2005), ‘Dreamgirls’ (2006), ‘Chicago’ (2002) and ‘Hairspray’ (2007).”

While remakes of renowned musicals have succeeded before, audiences are excited and critics are on the lookout for  the new “West Side Story” to hit theater screens with just as much passion and talent as the original.

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