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.