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Book Vs Movie Podcast

Mar 18, 2021

Book Vs Movie: “West Side Story” Vs "Romeo and Juliet"

The Shakespeare Classic & the 1961 Musical Which Swept the Academy Awards

“March Musicals!”

Oh, Book Vs Movie fans--where art thou?

The Margos are kickin’ it with “Musicals in March” and for this episode, we decided to use one of the most adapted Shakespeare tales (which is really saying something!) and match it with one of the most ambitious films of the early 1960s. 

William Shakespeare uses poetry, metaphors, comedy, tragedy, and a story about doomed young lovers which has entranced (or annoyed) audiences and high school students who had “Romeo & Juliet” on their reading curriculum for decades now. Originally published in the 1590s, there have been several direct adaptations for stage and screen. 

Romeo & Juliet are teens in love who are thwarted by the prejudice of their feuding clans and are a symbol for starcrossed lovers who are fated to be together. It’s not the feel-good hit of the summer--but it is beautiful and it’s hard not to feel something when ultimately their love has them make desperate choices (spoiler!)

In the 1950s, Arthur Laurents wrote the book for the musical West Side Story which had Jermone Robbins create the choreography and the music in part by future songwriting superstar Stephen Sondheim. It became a smash on Broadway in 1957 and there have been several revivals since. Oh, and Leonard Bernstein’s score is one of his best. 

The setting is now in late 1950s New York City where two different gangs The Jets (who are caucasian) and The Sharks (who are Puerto Rican) fight over their “turf.” Former Jet Tony falls in love with Maria whose brother is the leader of The Sharks.

The movie stars Natalie Wood, Richard Beymer, and Rita Moreno. The vocals for Wood are once again provided by Marni Nixon (we talked about her when we discussed My Fair Lady previously. 

So between the original play and the 1961 film--which did we prefer? Have a listen and find out! 

In this ep the Margos discuss:

  • The story of Romeo & Juliet
  • The creative team behind the musical adaptation
  • The cast: Natalie Wood (Maria,) Richard Beymer (Tony,) Russ Tamblyn (Riff,) Rita Moreno (Anita,) George Chakiris (Bernardo,) and Tucker Smith (Ice.) 

Clips used:

  • Romeo and Juliet (1968) “balcony scene”
  • West Side Story (1961) trailer 
  • Tony & Maria “balcony scene”
  • America with Tina & the Shark Girls
  • “The Dance at the Gym/Mambo”
  • “I Feel Pretty” Maria
  • “Mambo"
  • Outro Music: “Mambo” by Leonard Bernstein

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Margo P. @ShesNachoMama 


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