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Review: West Side Story Home Video

Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story is now available on various digital and disc formats.   The movie is an adaptation of the 1957 musical that tells the tale of forbidden love of two teens from rival gangs in New York.  For more on the film here is Maggie’s Review from the theatrical release.

I was sent the Blu-Ray/Digital Code version of the release.  This features a 96 minute 13 part documentary on the making of the film.  I appreciated the option to play all segments without having to keep selecting the next one, so it played like a continuous documentary.  These highlight different songs as well as a look at the production as a whole and includes tributes to some involved in the original film and play.    I really enjoyed seeing what went into making the film and found it interesting how Steven Spielberg was at rehearsals looking at ways to film it.  I would have liked to have seen more of a side by side comparison from those sessions to the final film.

Here are the details of the documentary (from the press release announcing the offering):

  • Opening – Director Steven Spielberg begins the journey of one of his career goals – to direct his own cinematic version of the iconic musical. Doing so means he will embrace enormous challenges.
  • Prologue – From the iconic finger snaps to the complex choreography, we are introduced to the film’s opening scene and explore its setting. We begin to see Spielberg’s vision take shape.
  • Sharks & Jets – Meet the actors who play the Sharks and the Jets. Go behind the scenes of “La Borinqueña,” the song of the Puerto Rican Revolution, which was added into this vision of the story. Discover the deeper meaning of “Jet Song.”
  • Dance At The Gym – Mambo your way through “The Dance At The Gym” and Justin Peck’s choreography, as it leads to the pivotal moment when Tony and Maria meet for the first time.
  • The Romance – Explore the budding romance of Tony and Maria with the songs “Maria” and “Tonight” as Rachel Zegler (Maria) and Ansel Elgort (Tony) talk about the casting process, and what led them to this career-defining film.
  • America – During a sweltering New York heat wave, the cast and crew take the production to the streets for one of the biggest dance numbers in the film, “America,” featuring Ariana DeBose, who plays Anita.
  • Gee, Officer Krupke – Spielberg and the Jets make “Gee, Officer Krupke” their own through a new setting, vocal direction and choreography, while they explore the meaning of Stephen Sondheim’s lyrics. Get to know Iris Menas (Anybodys) and the significance of their role.
  • Cool – During the first week of production, Spielberg and the cast nervously jump into filming on the elaborate and challenging set of the musical number “Cool.”
  • From Quintet to The Rumble – Spielberg and his team navigate the intertwining scenes of “The Quintet” and “The Rumble.” Once there, they take a scene that is traditionally stylishly choreographed, and instead bring a more visceral authenticity to the fight between the two gangs.
  • I Feel Pretty – Screenwriter Tony Kushner sheds new light on “I Feel Pretty.” We see how, in Spielberg’s film, the beloved song by lyricist Stephen Sondheim is given new vision, as it is set and performed within Gimbel’s department store.
  • Somewhere – Hollywood Legend Rita Moreno, who won acclaim for playing Anita in the 1961 film, returns as Valentina, a shopkeeper’s widow, as well as an executive producer. She brings extraordinary experience and emotion to the film and sings the song “Somewhere.”
  • Finale – In a moving testament to the talented cast and crew of WEST SIDE STORY, Spielberg reluctantly wraps “one of the best filmmaking experiences” of his career.
  • Tribute – The late Stephen Sondheim reflects on his career and experience making WEST SIDE STORY in this dedication to the esteemed lyricist.

West Side Story delivers a solid bonus feature that explores the film and showcases the creation of it.  It highlights the large team it takes to deliver a film like this and along the way shares several personal stories of those involved.   If you are a fan of traditional making of documentaries and/or this film you should consider this home video offering for your library.   As of now the Disney+ release of the film does not include any bonus features beyond a trailer.

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