It All Starts Tonight: Inside an Updated ‘Western Story’

West story is one of the most famous musicals of all time. It is also one of the most frequently criticized. Many people have written about less realistic stage musicals representative of the Latinx culture, as well as shark bleaching in the 1961 Oscar-winning film, many of them were played by white actors, such as Natalie Wood, and some of them wore tanned makeup. In a recent conversation about West story because the The New York Times, Writer Isabelia Herrera and Carina del Valle Schorske details the numerous transgressions they face growing up due to the musical’s vast cultural footprint. “West story may not be a Confederate monument, but it is a monument to the white-American authority that dominates the conversation about who Puerto Ricans are,” said del Valle Schorske. “And each revival renews that power and aligns the story for a new generation.”

The play has been restored and updated to the stage several times, often to address the serious criticism surrounding a musical about Latin culture created in the 1950s by four white men. of Broadway in 2009 had a Lin-Manuel Miranda infusing Sondheim’s lyrics with a touch of actual Spanish, something very lacking from the original version; the most recent is the 2020 Broadway revival directed by Ivo Van Hove explored the grittier side of both the Sharks and the Jets. However, the question remains when Steven Spielberg announced that he’s also scheduled to revisit the documentary, this time for a new movie. Do we really need another one West story, Even one trying to atone for the original’s sins? What else is there to learn from this job?

Obviously, a lot. After showing it to critics last week, Spielberg’s West story instantly become a main player during the 2022 Oscar race, receiving rave reviews for its careful reinterpretation of the original 1957 musical. VF‘S Richard Lawson write that new one West story manages to pay homage to the show’s legacy “while giving it a new shine, mildly tweaked and edgy rather than overhauled.”

While Spielberg certainly deserves credit for the successful update, the new movie works in large part thanks to its script, written by Tony Kushner, Pulitzer Prize recipient and Tony Award winner. By remaking much of the original book by Arthur Laurents, Kushner and Spielberg, who had previously collaborated on films such as Lincoln and Munich, was able to expand and deepen some of the show’s key roles, providing compelling, new underlying stories for these characters and correcting some of the mistakes of the original.

Photography by Niko Tavernise / © 20th Century Studios.

Kushner was initially skeptical of the project. “I went home and said to my husband, ‘Steven [Spielberg] just ask me to do something crazy. How do I get rid of this? ‘” he recalled during a recent press conference for the film. It took him seven years to crack the script, and even then Kushner tinkered with it until the bitter end. Spielberg recalled at the same press conference: “There was one particular scene where 32 paragraphs were rewritten. “And the final rewrite happened 24 hours before we actually shot the scene.”

The biggest rewrite involved a complete re-imagining of the character Doc – the white candy store owner who hires Tony (Ansel Elgort), one half of the show’s central couple. It was Kushner’s husband, the author (and VF Contributors) Mark Harris, who came up with the idea to replace Doc: “What you should do,” he told Kushner, “is make Doc a widow, make her Puerto Rican, and ask Rita Moreno to play it. “

So we’ve got Valentina, the new owner of the Doc candy store. During the press conference, Moreno – who won an Academy Award for supporting actress for playing Anita in the 1961 film – said that she signed Spielberg when Kushner assured her that her role would not was just “a cameo” and that’s what Kushner was referring to because his “terrible Google translate spanish” was just a placeholder for what was to come. Valentina serves as a direct link between old and new, while also creating an extra layer of emotional depth by acting as a shadow version of Maria (Rachel Zegler) —The true love of ony, another woman who begins a cross-cultural relationship.

Kushner also gave the show’s original characters new dimensions and storylines. Winner Tony said: “We are so lucky to have someone like Tony Kushner who is just writing the pages and the plot pages are never going to be scripted. David Alvarez, who played Maria’s brother, Shark leader Bernardo, in an interview with VF “It’s just for you to understand what the character’s thoughts are.”

Casting also creates an opportunity for this West story to go deeper. Nominee Tony Ariana DeBose, who is Afro-Latina, plays Anita, Maria’s soul mate, and says that discussions about Anita’s race began shortly after her audition. DeBose told me in a joint interview with Zegler: “I don’t think there’s a real chance in any world where I’ll get the job, because Anitas isn’t traditionally like me. “I said, ‘Well, if I’m Afro-Latina isn’t something we want to explore in the context of this portrait, I don’t know that you should hire me.’ Steven was able to hear it, and so could Tony. ”

So Kushner brought the theme of colorism — “something the character was very nervous and angry about,” he said — into his script. While arguing with the lighter-skinned Bernardo, Anita referred to herself as “prieta”—a Spanish word sometimes used in a derogatory way to offend Black people. Throughout the film, there’s a constant dialogue about the burden of assimilation, with DeBose’s Anita often asking other Puerto Rican characters, like Bernardo and Maria, to “speak English.”

But instead, the three often speak Spanish — in the scenes Spielberg purposely doesn’t use subtitles. “We are a bilingual country, and this is like a movie for a bilingual country,” says Kushner. It’s also an apparent attempt to correct the bleached dialogue found in earlier seasons of the musical. This time, Spielberg said, “English-speaking audiences will suddenly hear laughter from the Spanish-speaking audience in the cinema,” making them more equal.

https://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2021/12/it-all-began-tonight-inside-an-updated-west-side-story It All Starts Tonight: Inside an Updated ‘Western Story’


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