What a long way we’ve come. 50 years ago, when the classic film West Side Story was released, characters like Bernando Nuñez were played by Anglo actors. But now with musicals like In The Heights,
Latinos aren’t just acting in shows, they’re creating them! Nevertheless, it’s important to note the historical significance of WSS, especially since it’s now made a beautiful return on Blu-Ray!
The 1961 film was based on a Broadway play of the same name and featured quite a few Latino characters. There was Bernando, the colorful leader of the Sharks gang, his girl Anita (played wonderfully in the movie by Rita Moreno), and scene stealers like Chino, Pepe, and Indio.
The plot was kind of a modern twist of Romeo and Juliet, complete with dramatic deaths and a yearning love story. West Side Story also had some fantastic dance numbers, which rightfully earned it a Best Choreography Academy Award.
And, for the record, WSS nabbed 1961’s Best Picture nod too, so now seems like a perfect time to re-release it in crisp High Def. The new Blu-Ray features a ton of new goodies, including song commentaries by Stephen Sondheim, original storyboards, and intricate analyses of each dance scene.
But what we’re most excited about are the new documentaries featuring members of the original cast. And leading the pack of memorable faces is (you guessed it) screen legend Rita Moreno! She appears in the fantastic retrospective West Side Memories, along with her costars Russ Tamblyn and George Chakiris.
Rita won an Oscar for her role in the film (becoming the second Puerto Rican to do so) and watching it again in glorious Blu-Ray, it’s easy to see why. Her performance as Anita was both tough and tender and boy did she sing her heart out on “America!”
There are a lot of things to love about the new West Side Story DVD. For die-hard fans, there are tons of goodies to immerse yourself in. And for newbies, it’s a great education on Broadway musicals from years’past. Let’s just hope when they greenlight the remake, they throw a fewmore Latino actors into the mix.
By Michael Lopez