West Side Story Featurette: Something's Coming

Could it be? Yes, it could. Somethin's comin', somethin' good ... if I can wait. This new featurette makes that last part seriously tricky, though. 

The release date for Steven Spielberg's "West Side Story" is fast approaching — that's December 10, 2021, FYI — and now, just to make the wait that much harder for the rest of us, we have this lovely featurette. It's only a few minutes long, but it offers some beautiful behind-the-scenes looks at the production, including watching the cast tearfully perform some of its more devastating musical numbers. 

Without further ado, give it a watch below.

West Side Story Behind-The-Scenes Featurette

I am perpetually more and more excited for this film, and this featurette only amplifies the sensation. The moment it was announced, I was apprehensive. "West Side Story" is very precious to me, for reasons I'll get into in a bit. It's very precious to a lot of people for many different reasons. On top of being a kid who grew up on Jerome Robbins and Robert Wise's 1961 adaptation, I was a bit of a theater geek. I went to theater camp, directed plays in high school, did stage management, acted, you name it.

If anyone seems to understand the pressure to do right by "West Side Story," it's Spielberg. I'm more confident in that now than ever. The featurette confirms a lot of things we already knew, while reassuring audiences that we'll be proud of the final product. This isn't going to be a shot-for-shot remake of the classic film, and it won't be a straight adaptation of the 1957 Broadway production. On the contrary, it seems like it will keep the spirit of Robbins and Wise's film alive while giving it a subtly new form by way of its original theatrical incarnation.  

One frame at a time, we're taken through the exhaustive process by which Spielberg and the entire cast and crew brought these elements "together as one voice into an ensemble." The songs sound like they always have, and the scenes are staged in such a way that you'd be forgiven if you forgot you were watching new scenes, even for a moment. It looks perfect, and it sounds incredible. The promise of the finished product is palpable and I just can't wait. 

There's A Place For Us

The moment I saw Rita Moreno on the set, her voice softly singing the words to "Somewhere," I started crying. Really, I couldn't help myself.

"West Side Story" is an intensely personal movie for me, one that I share a deep connection to through my mom. She showed it to me when I was very young, and I grew up watching it almost exclusively with her. I didn't have many friends who were into musicals, let alone heady, long ones like "West Side Story." In fact, I didn't really have that many friends, period. So this was ours, and we loved it so. Still do. When she visited recently after almost a year and a half apart (thanks, Covid) we put it on just so we could watch it together, singing along at the top of our lungs, doing the voices. "Gee, Officer Krupke" has become one of my favorites to "perform" over the years, specifically because there are so many fun voices to do. 

Man, I miss doing musical theater. I also digress — shocker.

For my mom, it was something to connect to. She had moved to Canada from Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1974 when she was just 14 years old. That's about the time when she saw "West Side Story," likely on TV. An Argentinian Jewish immigrant, whose father had survived a work camp during the Holocaust, there was a lot for her to connect to, even if just subconsciously. As a very young teenager, she didn't fully grasp how bad things were for Puerto Ricans in the United States at the time, but she knew that she could see some of herself, and that meant the world. She watched it with my Abuelita, and they both loved the music. So it made an impact on a young girl in a foreign place having to learn to adapt to a new culture that had its fair share of prejudices against her. 

Hold My Hand And We're Halfway There

Yes, we know that the initial casting of the movie wasn't exactly authentic. Natalie Wood is hardly Puerto Rican. That said, at the time, it was a huge deal. That can't be ignored.

Now, we're getting the real deal, and it's being taken immensely seriously, as it should be. 

No stranger to prejudice, "West Side Story" has always resonated with me. When you grow up Jewish in North America — probably anywhere, who am I kidding? — you grow up learning about how the rest of the world has hated you throughout history. I learned about the Holocaust before I hit double digits. We had survivors come to my elementary school every International Holocaust Remembrance Day because I went to school in a fairly Jewish neighborhood. Which is saying something, when you consider only 3% of the global Jewish population live in the country out of a total of less than 15 million worldwide. 

So the fact that my mom was born and raised in Argentina only added to the impact of the narrative behind "West Side Story." She watched it as an Argentinian immigrant, new to Canada, seeing herself in small ways. I watched it as a little girl, singing along, crying at the hate, the violence, and the exclusion. I saw myself, too, only in a slightly different way. I still do. I think I always will. 

So there's a lot riding on Spielberg's adaptation. For so many more people than just me and my mom. But I can promise you that, when we do get to watch it together, however long that takes, we'll sing along at the top of our lungs doing all the voices, and we'll hold hands and cry.

"West Side Story" releases in theaters on December 10, 2021.