A casting call announcement recently revealed that there could be a remake of “West Side Story”. According to reports, Steven Spielberg has been attached as director and the casting call is asking for Latinx actors. The movie will be big if it is made, financed and distributed properly. Vanity Fair points out that Spielberg has mentioned the project before in interviews. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that a project will be made. Still, the casting call looks promising, and, high off the success of The Greatest Showman, Hollywood might just give us a Big Deal movie musical. Remember in 2013 when Les Miserables swarmed the awards shows? Anne Hathaway won an Oscar for this movie! The film won the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical (this is one of few occasions where the word “musical” needs to be used).
So, West Side Story is on the rise, and if Steven Spielberg is involved, it will be the talk at the office in 2021. (Or never!) I feel all kinds of conflicted by this because “West Side Story” is a wonderful show. Big, massive movie musicals can be very macho. (See: The Greatest Showman. ) West Side Story: The New Movie. It might be horribly, terribly wonderful, or it could go horribly, terribly wrong. I am preparing for bad news but I hope for good.
Here’s how it works horribly: Spielberg casts prominent actors in leading roles in order to make a newsworthy movie. Say Zac Efron is offered the role of Tony. (Oh, I was too loud! Efron then shimmys his way through the part )- I’m not trying to offend anyone, but my high school self is full of emotions – but his renditions of “Maria” sound more like Daft Punk rather than Josh Groban. A second possibility is that Josh Groban plays Tony.
Les Miserables, another Big Movie Musical, was made with prestige in mind. Its star power is what helped it succeed. It had a big director, Tom Hooper, who also directed The King’s Speech and The Danish Girl. It also had Russell Crowe and Hugh Jackman and Helena Bonham Carter and Amanda Seyfried and Sacha Baron Cohen and Anne Hathaway. It received a score of 69% from Rotten Tomatoes. The (notoriously venomous) critic Anthony Lane declared the movie full of “basic, inflationary bombast” and The Guardian compared it to experiencing a “prolonged assault.” Anne Hathaway’s rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream” won her the Oscar. However, the kinder reviews remained focused on Anne Hathaway. Russell Crowe’s pathetic performance was the subject of some more negative internet reviews. He’s in a rock group, but he sang in the movie as if Bon Iver was his backup singer. Despite all the criticism, the movie was a huge box office hit, with a total of $148 million in North America.
This means that the movie, Les Mis, was not memorable. It may be grandiose and, if done well, can be affecting but it is forgettable. Hooper’s musical is a warning to Oscar-hopeful musicals. This is what you can do if Hollywood grabs you.
Chicago proved in 2002 that musicals can leap to the screen with some success, although not without some deft casting and camerawork. Chicago, which won an Oscar for Best Picture, succeeded by elevating theme over presentation. Chicago is about the ways we use fantasy to ignore social flaws. Two narratives were presented in the movie: Roxy (Rene Zellweger),’s fantasy and her grim reality. The movie’s musical theater was Roxy’s fantasy. Director Rob Marshall used musical theatre and its grandiose styling effectively to emphasize Roxy’s delusion.
West Side Story isn’t as grandiose a show as Les Mis, nor does it have the razzle dazzle of Chicago. The music is less ambitious, and it’s not based on a Victor Hugo novel, for starters. But it’s just dramatic as Les Miserables . “How many can you kill, Chino?” It also addresses more common themes such as gentrification and emigration and racial intolerance. All of these are extremely pertinent given the current political climate. It tells the story of Romeo & Juliet atop Manhattan’s 1950s, and named it after the Upper West Side.
There were many mistakes in the original movie. The Puerto Rican Jets had white actors cast. Maria was played by Natalie Wood, a non-Latinx actress. She didn’t sing the role. Marni Nixon, a long-time singer-dumber, sang for her. Les Miserables at least made its actors sing. Rita Moreno was the film’s saving grace, and she should 100% return to the remake.
When the show returned to Broadway in 2009, it featured Latinx actors playing the roles of Puerto Rican Jets. Maria was played by Josefina Scaglione (an Argentinian opera singer). Lin-Manuel Miranda translated portions of the songs into Spanish.
In my hopeful 2021 future, West Side Story is a huge hit, and none of the actors are well-known. Young & Hungry’s Aimee Carrero plays Maria, Camila Cabello is my favorite pop star. Tony: I would like Taron Egerton, Garrett Clayton, and Grant Gustin to be my Riff. Riff will be given to Darren Criss. John C. Reilly could also be Officer Krupke if he wishes.