A Girl Like That

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Pat Cerasaro

The awe-inspiring collection of talent that converged to create the classic 1957 Broadway musical WEST SIDE STORY is astounding to consider, even more than 60 years on. Composer Leonard Bernstein, lyricistStephen Sondheim, bookwriter Arthur Laurents and director/choreographer Jerome Robbins were joined by producers Robert E. Griffith and Harold Prince in adapting William Shakespeare's ROMEO & JULIET and setting it in contemporary Manhattan. Gang violence, rape and murder were not common theatrical tropes commonly viewed on the musical stage at the time, immediately making it a revolutionary piece with a massive impact still reverberating to this day. There was simply nothing like it before and there have been few things better than it since.

Then came the film. While the Broadway show was a commendable hit, the worldwide adoration that WEST SIDE STORY still receives is due in no small part to the 1961 big screen iteration, co-directed by Robbins and movie musical master Robert Wise. Featuring the full score from the stage show and an electrifying cast including Natalie Wood, Richard Beymer, Russ Tamblyn, George Chakiris and Rita Moreno, the dynamic and dramatic material set the screen alight with a palpable energy and vividly ingratiating style all its own. Accordingly, the film was a worldwide smash, with the soundtrack staying atop the Billboard charts for more than a calendar year. Additionally, the film racked up 10 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director and statuettes for two supporting players, Chakiris and Moreno. 

Attempting what perhaps only he himself would have the audacity to do, venerated Hollywood heavyweight Steven Spielberg is bringing WEST SIDE STORY to the big screen once again in a reboot scheduled to begin shooting next year. Featuring a new screenplay penned by Pulitzer Prize winner Tony Kushner, the fresh take on the material will be a reworking of the original masterpiece, utilizing the iconic songstack while making major and minor nips and tucks to the script. Most notably, the character of Doc will be replaced by a new role in the guise of Valentina, the owner of the corner store where many memorable scenes play out. Most enticingly, the part will be played by none other than original film star and EGOT recipient Rita Moreno, in an exciting bit of news revealed this week. While other casting for the film has remained scarce, Ansel Elgort has been confirmed to be playing the central role of Tony, as well.

Although much of the original cast and creative team has passed away, it is reassuring to know that Spielberg and Kushner will be paying direct homage to the iconography of the property by involving Moreno in the 2019 proceedings. And, who knows what new surprises are in store as we anticipate the film hitting screens this time next year.

THE LION KING Roars Again

THE LION KING Roars Again

Everything old is new again in Hollywood and no greater evidence of that fact is the spate of silver screen revivals coming fast and furious from the House of Mouse. The enviable worldwide box office receipts of recent live-action revivals of CINDERELLA, THE JUNGLE BOOK and BEAUTY AND THE BEAST to the collective tune of $2 billion is proof in the pudding that audiences are lapping up the opportunity to revisit the popular properties that informed their childhoods, while also introducing the internationally recognized entities to an entirely new generation. This holiday weekend, Disney offered the preliminary glimpse of the silver screen reboot of a particularly beloved animated masterpiece from 1994, THE LION KING, to universal adulation.

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Why is Disney Being Cheap with its Original "Aladdin" Writers with its Live-Action Remake?

Why is Disney Being Cheap with its Original "Aladdin" Writers with its Live-Action Remake?

This past month, Disney unveiled the first teaser trailer for “Aladdin”, its latest remake of their animated classics set to release in Spring 2019. In addition to some glimpses of Iago flying above some epic CGI-generated landscapes, we also got to see a quick look at the Cave of Wonders and hear some pretty familiar dialogue,

“Only one may enter here,” the Cave says. “One whose worth lies far within. A diamond in the rough.”

I’m 100% sure we’re going to hear some of the more iconic lines of the original animated films in this remake. However, apparently Disney is being more than a bit stingy when it comes to paying the original writers of the animated film.

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