This post isn’t going to be quite like the others. Instead of trying to persuade you into watching one of my favorite musicals, I’m going to give some background as to when and how I originally got interested in musical theatre and take you back to the first musical I remember watching and falling in love with.
After re-watching it a few times over the years, and just recently again, I’ve come to the conclusion that this one might be a littler harder to convince someone to get into, especially when they have no interest in musicals in the first place. However, it’s a classic and also an important element of how I actually got into watching and being interested in musical theatre.
I still remember it so clearly. I was in sixth grade music class and I was told by some of my friends who were in the class before mine that we were going to be watching some boring musical and answering questions about it. I hadn’t really watched a full musical before other than a couple Disney Channel Original movies like High School Musical and The Cheetah Girls. I wasn’t really looking forward to it, to say the least. But honestly, the second it started I was intrigued.
Okay well, maybe not right away.
It had very cheesy singing and dancing, and the special effects of the 1960s weren’t really all that convincing, but there was just something about it that reeled me in. Looking back on it, there is no doubt that it was the music.
A perfect mix of jazz and spanish music was something I’d never really heard before. It was so intriguing and beautiful and lively; I couldn’t get enough of it. The class was only 40 minutes long and I wouldn’t have it again for two days. So, when I say I couldn’t get enough of it, I mean it; I went home that day and played the movie right away so I could finish it and wouldn’t have to wait any longer.
It was a classic Romeo and Juliet story, but it was also like none other than I’d seen before. The story followed an American gang, the Jets, and the rival Puerto Rican immigrant gang, the Sharks. Maria who is Puerto Rican and the sister of the leader of the sharks falls in love with Tony, an ex jet and best friend of the leader of the jets. That aspect of the plot is known and fairly predictable. They meet under unlikely circumstances and fall in love immediately. The rival gangs of course do not approve of the relationship so they must go behind their backs. But, the two groups fight regardless and well, I’m sure you know the rest.
But the Romeo and Juliet aspect of the plot isn’t the only interesting element. The racial tension and cultural disparity of the Puerto Ricans and the Americans, even within each group, brings very interesting concepts into thought. For example, in one scene where they sing what’s probably my favorite song, America, the Puerto Rican women dispute with the men about whether or not being in America is good or bad. The women love it, they love all of the different amenities, and luxuries, and opportunities that America has to offer. But the men argue that it’s way too expensive and because they were Hispanic there were no opportunities for them anyways.
I think this musical is extremely relevant even now with our current political situations. It’s even kind of ridiculous to think that something made over fifty years ago dealing with racial prejudice would still be so relevant today. In any matter, the topic is still interesting to see in action (and especially with music).
West-Side Story will always have a very special place in my heart. No doubt is it a classic musical with, well, very theatrical characters and actions, but the music is genius. It makes for the perfect old school musical. And hey, I wasn’t much of a fan before, but look at me now! I think everything deserves a shot, so why not at least give it a try.