Showtune Sunday: "West Side Story" Cool
I saw the new revival of West Side Story earlier this week, right before it opened. And...well. Uhh. Hmmm.
While I lowered my expectations way down beforehand (I felt it would be unfair to compare it against my memories of the movie, which is one of my top ten films of all time), it was a disappointment nevertheless. The direction was cold and formal; the piece never developed an emotional core. (What happened, Mr. Laurents? I was so happy with your work on Gypsy, and now this!) Some of the voices were strong (especially Broadway newcomer Josefina Scaglione, who is an exquisite Maria), but most were not. Suddenly, I think Hair might have a chance at that Tony Award yet. (I see it next week, and will report in.)
Of all elements, though, the biggest horrors were The Jets...terrible acting, subpar dancing, and almost every song off-key. Cody Green -- aka, the winner of Bravo's Step It Up And Dance -- plays Riff so stiff and untextured that he might as well move back to the chorus. Xanadu's Curtis Holbrook, playing Action, was flat-out embarrassing. In the group numbers, The Jets butchered "Jet Song" and "Gee, Officer Krupke," in my opinion. But it was "Cool," with its stunning Jerome Robbins choreography, that should have sailed. And it didn't. Posted above is the original company, who land every move with sharp edges, clean lines, and vibrant energy. If you've seen the new version, compare the two. The difference is astonishing.
But maybe it's not a total loss. It's a great musical, maybe the best of all time. And that may help them with the public and some of the critics, because hearing those amazing songs is a joy. (And the Tony/Maria duets are really, really good.) But taken as a whole, this West Side Story tarnishes a great work of art's legacy. Stay cool, boy.