Since the 1957 Broadway debut of “West Side Story,” the adaptation of “Romeo and Juliet” with a score by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, there have been five Broadway revivals — including Ivo van Hove’s version which was running on Broadway until the shutdown — countless productions in high schools and community theaters, and just one movie…until this year, when director Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story,” with a new screenplay by Tony Kushner and choreography by Justin Peck, is scheduled for release on December 8, 2020. The 1961 movie adaptation, co-directed by Jerome Robbins, who conceived the show and directed the original on Broadway, and co-written by Arthur Laurents, the original Broadway librettist, starred Richard Beymer as Tony and a dubbed Natalie Wood as Maria. It won ten Oscars — including best movie, and nods to Rita Moreno and George Chakiris as Anita and Bernardo respectively. But it’s frankly a mixed back to view these days, for a variety of reasons — not least of which is the really bad makeup.
“This story is not only a product of its time, but that time has returned, and it’s returned with a kind of social fury,” Spielberg told Vanity Fair. “I really wanted to tell that Puerto Rican, Nuyorican experience of basically the migration to this country and the struggle to make a living, and to have children, and to battle against the obstacles of xenophobia and racial prejudice.”