“West Side Story”: The Most Excellent and Lamentable Tragedy of Anita and Bernardo

West Side Story!

Ariana DeBose steps into Rita Moreno’s shoes and dashes away with them as the new Anita.

It’s extremely rare nowadays for me to watch films I’ve already seen, but last week on a staycation whim I revisited the original West Side Story, which I have on DVD and my wife remembers me liking when we watched it together sixteen years ago. Maybe it gave me the impression this was the essence of Real Broadway. At the time we had little frame of reference, years before we had the opportunities to see actual Broadway shows in 2011 and in 2016. I’d forgotten much of it till I cued it up. The lyrical verve and the intricate dance numbers certainly struck old chords, as did Rita Moreno’s performance, far and away the best among the cast. Beyond that, the enchantments from my first time seemed a little faded. The Happy Days hoodlums and their 1960s color schemes held my attention for a bit, and some songs drew me back in when my eyes wandered to other gadgets (“America” and “Officer Krupke” are each satirical exemplars), but…I dunno. It was still fine? It’s creaky compared unfairly to a 21st-century stage production, but I guess I still get it? Setting aside the problematic aspects a thousand better websites have already covered?

I was not among the front lines of any protests insisting a remake was unnecessary or pointless. Every classic Broadway show has its revivals, often with revisions and updates for later generations with differing sensibilities. Why not this one? And why not let lifelong fan Steven Spielberg take a crack at it? Especially teamed up with his Oscar-winning Lincoln screenwriter Tony Kushner, the main behind the acclaimed Angels in America? Again, setting aside the problematic aspects a thousand better websites have already covered? And which Kushner acknowledged in a fascinating New York Times interview with film critic A.O. Scott? Why not? If nothing else, it diverted his attention away from potentially worse project choices like Ready Player Two.

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2016 NYC Trip Photos #22: Back on Broadway

Wicked!

“I’m through accepting limits ’cause someone says they’re so / Some things I cannot change, but till I try, I’ll never know!”

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Every year from 1999 to 2015 my wife Anne and I took a road trip to a different part of the United States and visited attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. With my son’s senior year in college imminent and next summer likely to be one of major upheaval for him (Lord willing), the summer of 2016 seemed like a good time to get the old trio back together again for one last family vacation before he heads off into adulthood and forgets we’re still here. In honor of one of our all-time favorite vacations to date, we scheduled our long-awaited return to New York City…

On our first Manhattan foray back in 2011, The Lion King was the first Broadway show we’d ever seen. I’m sure there’re locals and/or hardcore Broadway fans who consider it too populist a choice or whatever, but it was our unanimous decision that didn’t disappoint us in any way imaginable. For our next feature presentation, we once again took our family interests to heart and chose accordingly.

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Our 2011 Road Trip #16: Bright On Broadway

Lion King Mask!

“MUFASA WELCOMES YOU AND REMINDS YOU TO TURN OFF YOUR CELL PHONES.”

[The very special miniseries continues! See Part One for the official intro and context.]

After plumbing the depths of Grant’s Tomb we had an afternoon appointment for our very first Broadway show: The Lion King. But first we had to get there. The trip down from 122nd Street to 45th Street wasn’t a short one.

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“Birdman”: Dancing with the Devil in the Broadway Lights

Birdman!

My expression most of the time while watching.

Two weeks ago we drove to the other side of the city to see Birdman in the only art-film theater in Indianapolis. I’m annoyed that it later opened more widely and is now showing at two theaters much closer to home, but there’s no use crying over wasted gas. Ever since then I’ve been struggling to translate my reaction into words that capture my enthusiastic response without being mere labels. There’s a scene about that, and it’s been bugging me ever since.

If you know the movie only from its elliptical ads, you’ll quickly learn Birdman is not slapstick superhero spoof. This isn’t Condorman or Superhero Movie with better effects and a more famous cast. Satire is one of the film’s numerous modes, but costumed metahumans and the summer action blockbusters they inhabit are just a couple of the many subjects facing the scrutiny of director Alejandro González Iñárritu (Babel), who’s more interested in deeper goals than in brainstorming cheap Batman jokes.

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