Not all West Side Stories are the same

Somehow, for the last 33 years I’ve managed to have a moderate interest in theater and to have never seen nor heard West Side Story. Two months ago I bought the CD of the original broadway cast. I have already listened to it dozens, possibly a hundred times. Moments ago, I finished watching the movie. Thanks very much for loaning it to me, Barb!

I’m lucky it happened in that order. Had I seen the movie first, I would not have fallen in love with the musical. (There are, after all, only two musicals I love.)

The movie version is horribly miscast in comparison to the broadway cast. I’ve heard amateur karaoke singers exhibit more emotional range in songs than the movie cast.

Why the lyric and book changes? In the broadway recording, Maria says, ‘They are strict with me’ and, in response, Tony proclaims his love to Maria with a sublime mixture of emotion: commanding, assured, tender and damning-of-consequences. The movie version has them babbling on and him whispering his love. Blech. The opening song is changed from ‘when the spit hits the fan’ to ‘let them do what they can.’ What the heck could the censors possibly care about that for? There are more changes, you can check the links for them all.

The movie’s songs are all 10-20 bpm faster. I swear the actors have to *rush* the lyrics! I didn’t even want to sing along. My only two theories are that the director had some artificial time limit on the movie, or they were covering up movie Tony’s lack of singing talent. The official web site explains some of the other changes, but not this one.

I will be denying the existence of the movie and hoping the karaoke tracks out there are from the broadway recordings.

The silver lining in this debacle: I get to stretch my imagination by staging the show in my head every time I listen to it.

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