West Side Story musical using original musical book, or movie book?
April 24, 2019 5:08 AM   Subscribe

The lyrics for the movie version of West Side Story and the original musical are different (particularly for the song America; the movie version is much improved.) Does anyone know if the musical will be using the original lyrics or the movie lyrics?
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 to Media & Arts (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Which version of the musical? There have been many new productions of it, some of which use the book from the original musical, but knowing the one you are thinking of will help narrow things down.
posted by Hermione Granger at 5:12 AM on April 24, 2019


I didn't even realize there was more than one! Thank goodness for people who know what's up :)

I'd actually be interested in knowing about every production in a major US city that has opened in the last three months, or that is opening within the next three months or so. The one I'm most aware of is in Chicago.

Thank you!
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 5:14 AM on April 24, 2019


The recent stagings you’re talking about (in Chicago, Atlanta, Houston) were all directed by Francesca Zambello.

According to reviews I could find they're using the Jerome Robbins choreography and the performances are in English (not using the 2009 Spanish lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda). None of the reviews I could find make any particular reference to the movie vs. staged versions but this review does mention Rosalia (and not Bernardo) in "America" which implies that they're doing something closer to the original stage version.
posted by bcwinters at 5:48 AM on April 24, 2019 [1 favorite]


From that article:

Mezzo-soprano Zoie Reams, the final member of the opera contingent, sounded completely at home in the earthy music Bernstein gave Maria’s pal Rosalia. Her heartiness added spirit to “I Feel Pretty”; her lushness brought out the sultriness of the salute to Puerto Rico that launched “America.”

Yes, this is definitely the stage version --- disappointing; the movie version has so much more emotional heft to it (and is a lot more realistic).

Thanks very much!
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 6:48 AM on April 24, 2019


And in case anyone is curious about the difference, here are the lyrics for both
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 6:49 AM on April 24, 2019 [3 favorites]


This article from The Hollywood Reporter suggests that the lyrics for America will be from the stage version, in response to concerns from Puerto Ricans:

https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/steven-spielberg-met-puerto-rican-activists-west-side-story-concerns-1176285
posted by elphaba at 7:26 AM on April 24, 2019 [1 favorite]


Thanks for the article! It says they’re using the film lyrics for that reason.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 7:34 AM on April 24, 2019


Argh the ads got me!! I didn’t realize there was more to the article. Thanks again
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 7:34 AM on April 24, 2019


Wait, no, it sounds like they’re using the film version but that’s the version that includes the “sink back into the ocean” lyric? I can’t tell either way. Thank you though :)
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 7:40 AM on April 24, 2019


In the Stephen Sondheim memoir Finishing the Hat, Sondheim explains that the movie version is the original lyric. He had to change it for the original production at the insistence of Jerome Robbins, who wanted it staged as an all-female number. His original lyric was reinstated when the film was made.

In defense of the lyric, I'll just note that the original (film) version that includes the line "let it sink back into the ocean" is staged as an argument between Anita, who sees America as a land of opportunity and excitement, and Bernardo, who tries to remind her that America is racist and will never see past her Puerto Rican origins to offer her the best of its opportunities. So it's a complex sentiment that incites a response in the very same song.

It's not clear from the Hollywood Reporter story what's going on. It seems like the filmmakers feel they have addressed the problem with that line — though even they are confused about which version it's in — so I'm assuming they have likely chosen the musical version to avoid it. (That version of the lyrics has its own issues, by the way -- Sondheim himself cites the line "You ugly island/island of tropic diseases" as deserving of "outrage" but says he didn't change it because it sets the tone for the whole song.)
posted by Mothlight at 7:50 AM on April 24, 2019 [7 favorites]


I don't have strong feelings either way about the "let it sink back into the ocean" lyric --- overall, I feel like the movie lyrics are much better than the stage lyrics although people are understandably hurt by that line.

In the Stephen Sondheim memoir Finishing the Hat, Sondheim explains that the movie version is the original lyric.

Fascinating! I'm not surprised. It's much, much better (more emotional depth, more interesting) even if you take the (important) political considerations out of the picture.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 8:11 AM on April 24, 2019


> In defense of the lyric, I'll just note that the original (film) version that includes the line "let it sink back into the ocean" is staged as an argument between Anita, who sees America as a land of opportunity and excitement, and Bernardo, who tries to remind her that America is racist and will never see past her Puerto Rican origins to offer her the best of its opportunities. So it's a complex sentiment that incites a response in the very same song.

It's not clear from the Hollywood Reporter story what's going on. It seems like the filmmakers feel they have addressed the problem with that line — though even they are confused about which version it's in — so I'm assuming they have likely chosen the musical version to avoid it. (That version of the lyrics has its own issues, by the way -- Sondheim himself cites the line "You ugly island/island of tropic diseases" as deserving of "outrage" but says he didn't change it because it sets the tone for the whole song.)


Well stated.

Honestly, that Hollywood Reporter story makes it sound like an incredibly unsatisfying and non-substantive discussion, with Spielberg "more prepared" only in that he was prepared to say pandering (IMO) things about representation. I agree with Alegre, neither Spielberg nor Kushner seemed to understand her actual point.

If you're going to travel to Puerto Rico to talk about a very very famous musical about Puerto Ricans, maybe bite the bullet and learn how to talk about racism against Puerto Ricans without fumbling back and forth with clumsy as fuck assurances like how Spielberg 'has arranged for multiple dialect coaches to "help Puerto Ricans who have lived in New York too long to remember where they came from.'"
posted by desuetude at 1:34 PM on April 24, 2019 [1 favorite]


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