10 things to know about West Side Story

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United Artists

A great musical classic to see again this evening on M6 (after La La Land).

West Side Story, the musical at the 10 Oscars, is rebroadcast this Monday, as part of a special musical evening concocted by M6. Just before, it is La La Land which will be offered to viewers. This diffusion is good, the new version of West Side Story, directed by Steven Spielberg, being currently in the cinema, preceded by excellent reviews. While waiting to be able to review the original version, here are 10 anecdotes on its creation.

West Side Story: Spielberg wins his bet [critique]

1. The ten Oscar film, released in 1961, was shown for five years in a row at the George V cinema in Paris.

2. Jerome Robbins and Leonard Bernstein are both 25 when they meet. Jérome Robbins is a dancer at the Ballet Theater in New York. He began choreographing small, very colorful action ballets on the model of the Russian school. Leonard Bernstein has just been hired as assistant to conductor Arthur Rodzinsky at the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. He completes his first symphony, Jeremiah. It was in April 1944 that they created their first show. Jerry and Lenny, as they are now called, will never leave each other.

3. In 1949, West Side Story was to see Jews and Christians clash on the East Side. The first time Jerome Robbins had the idea of “Romeo project”, a modern adaptation of William Shakespeare’s classic, Romeo and Juliet, he thought he would situate the action around the Easter holidays and stage violence between Jews and Christians. Julia the Jewess and Lorenzo the Christian would see their love sacrificed. Four years and a few drafts later, they enlist the help of the playwright Arthur Laurents. But the librettist and the composer find it difficult to reconcile their points of view. Community clashes between Jews and Catholics do not work. They are a thing of the past and both men feel it. The project will stop for six years.

4. The young Stephen Sondheim (who died on November 26) initially refused to collaborate with the Bernstein-Laurents-Robbins trio. He was very disappointed that he was only entrusted with writing the lyrics for the songs. “More, he explained, I don’t know any Puerto Rican. “ It was ultimately Oscar Hammerstein, his teacher, who convinced him to accept.

5. No one wanted to produce West Side Story on the scene. How to imagine an entertainment that ends in a double murder? Even after a demo – a showcase it looks like today – in front of all New York’s producers, no one is interested. Only a producer, Cheryl Crawford, accepts them in her Broadway theater. But the boss of the Theater Guild asks for so many changes that the quartet ends up despairing. A few years later, Broadway will make a success that will immediately attract Hollywood.

West Side Story: Why Steven Spielberg didn’t want to subtitle the dialogues in Spanish

6. Jerome Robbins is a follower of the Actor’s Studio method which encourages one to fully identify with the character. They require performers to take their meals with members of the same group and to wear a Jets or Sharks jacket on all occasions. At the end of the rehearsals, the two camps no longer want to speak to each other!

7. United Artists had at one time considered handing over the role of Tony to Marlon Brando. But the 35-year-old actor was ultimately deemed too old to play a teenager.

8. After weeks of testing, Robert Wise hires Natalie Wood to play Maria. She records all of her songs and shoots the film, being convinced that her voice will be preserved while the producers find from the start that she lacks power and clashes in the treble. She is replaced by soprano Marni Nixon. She will then double Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady.

9. Stephen Sondheim wanted to be the first to be able to place the famous 4 letter insult “FUCK” in a musical. But in 1957, good morals forbade it. The song about Officer Krupke therefore ends with these words: “KRUP YOU”.

10. Jerome Robbins was very unhappy that the producer hired Robert Wise to do the adaptation of his masterpiece. The two men found it difficult to get along. Finally, the choreographer was fired from the stage because he was taking too long to have the actors rehearse the danced numbers. On the stage of the Oscars, the two men find themselves together to receive the statuette of best director.

West Side Story: new behind-the-scenes music video

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