When “West Side Story” hit Broadway in 1957, it became an instant classic. The musical depicts the rivalry between the Jets and the Sharks, two enemy street gangs with different ethnic backgrounds, and the modern-day Romeo and Juliet love story that emerges from the gangs. The film version, which was released in 1961, was a classic amongst the first watch, winning eleven Academy Awards including Best Supporting Actress for Rita Moreno, for her iconic performance as Anita.
As someone who is very anti-remake-of-movies, I was hesitant to even watch the 2021 adaptation of “West Side Story.” However, upon finishing the film, I was able to say that the remake was crafted so perfectly that you forget it’s a remake. It’s unique in that all the Puerto Rican characters -which make up over half the cast- are all Latino, contrary to the 1961 version, where Rita Moreno was the only Latino cast member.
Rachel Zegler does a flawless job as Maria (especially in my personal favorite, the “Balcony Scene”). Overall, the entire cast does great in their respective roles, however, Ariana DeBose (who has her own ties to Wakefield!) shines as Anita, particularly in “America” and “A Boy Like That.”
Even if you aren’t a fan of remakes -or musicals-, I encourage you to watch this film. In times where we often feel divided, West Side Story is just as relevant today as it was fifty years ago.