Director Steven Spielberg and Screenwriter Tony Kushner Gave the West Side Story a New Look in 2021. We Try to Simplify Every Important Change From Its 1961 Version.
The most significant changes from the 1961 West Side Story. While keeping its fundamentals, West Side Story was again filmed by the famous director Steven Spielberg. Taken from a 1957 Broadway play having the same name being, West Side Story was filmed in 1961 starring Natalie Wood, Rita Moreno, and Richard Beymer. Its current release has the same storyline.
However, there are stark differences to make the current West Side Story outperform the older version.
Westside story has a background of the late 1950s and it showcases the Jets – an Irish-American street gang whose leader is Riff (played by Mike Faist) and their hatred against the Sharks spurred by racism – another team of Puerto Rico which is headed by Bernardo (played by David Alvarez).
In the scheme of things, they are to rival each other to seize the neighborhood. Notwithstanding their enmity, items become complex when Tony (played by Angel Resort), who was previously a member of the Jets, falls for Maria (played by Rachel Ziegler), Bernardo’s sister, after they meet.
Keeping the main story unaltered, Spielberg’s West Side Story has quite a few changes from the original musical version of the film, including lyrics, and music, sites of shooting, and specific changes in the characters.
In its former version, Doc has a drugstore that serves as a focal point when the Jets and Sharks meet to set the rules of the Rumble. But in the 2021 version, Rita Moreno assumes the role of Valentina, who is used to fulfill another purpose and as an alternative to Doc. Though she has a role similar to that of the Doc, it has some changes.
Since she is portrayed as a Puerto Rican character, Valentina gambles her chance on Tony being the wife of a white man. This shakes the energy between her and the other characters. Finally, she plays a vital role in the film and sings a song not done by Doc in the 1961 version.
The Songs and Characters Who Sing Them Are Also Changed
The 1961 West Side Story songs are slightly different than the 2021 movie. The songs are more or less similar – “America” is a mixture of the older film and the current one. It is thus a special one. However, the singer’s and the song’s presence in the plot is changed.
In the current version of Spielberg, “Gee, Officer Krupke,” “I Feel Pretty,” and “America” all these songs are present at multiple points in the film. The first one is when some members of the Jets gang are taken to the police station and interrogated about the Rumble rather than in the streets in the older film.
In the song “I Feel Pretty,” Maria tidies a store department after the fight, compared to the older film where she was at a bride’s shop before the war. In the song “America,” Steven Spielberg shoots it at a street instead of a rooftop and it is presented early the day after the dance in the gym than before, as it was in the older film.
“Cool” is there before the Rumble. “What’s more” is another song that is shown to be sung by Tony to Riff, differentiating from the 1961 version where it was sung by Ice after the demise of Riff. “Somewhere” by Valentina, then by Tony to Maria after her discovery that he murdered Bernardo.
Maria blurts out verses from the song “One Hand, One Heart” when Tony is in her arms dying rather than singing “Somewhere” in the 1961 West Side Story.
In 2021 West Side Story Anybody Is a Trans
In the actual film of the 60s and the play, Anybodys is portrayed as a young female with the personality of a tomboy and her only desire is to join the Jets’ gang and be known as their member like the guys. Whereas the character of Anybodys has inclined towards being trans, the new film has made the possibility real.
In its storyline, the character of Anybodys is played by the actor Ezra Means who identifies as a nonbinary. Anybody keeps following the Jets everywhere but is not welcomed by them and is made fun of for his gender and constant efforts to be one of them. Ultimately, he ends up winning their regard.
Maria works at a bridal dress shop in the 1961 West Side Story with Anita. This is the place where she sings “I Feel Pretty” in the starting. But in the new film, she has the job of a cleaner, cleaning the floors and spraying the counters at a different department store in New York City. On the other hand, Anita works with dresses hoping to have her shop one day.
The department store is where Chino informs Maria about Tony killing her brother Bernardo. This contrasts with the older version, where he goes up onto the roof to deliver the news.
Tony Does Not Meet Bernardo and the Sharks Before the Fight
In the older movie, Tony and the Jets meet with Bernardo and the other Sharks at the drugstore owned by Doc to specify the rules of the Rumble. There Tony manages to persuade Bernardo about fair play and that the fight should go on without using any weapon.
However, in the 2021 film, Tony offers Riff and the Jets to persuade them not to use the gun Riff got from a bar and sings the song “Cool” to prompt his mates to allay their rage.
Maria and Tony Don’t Have a Date in 1961 West Side Story
In the 1961 film, Maria and Tony don’t enjoy a date. But Tony meets Maria at her workplace, the bridal shop. There she convinces him to swear to her to stop the Rumble, to which Tony assents. Then they also act out their marriage. However, in the 2021 film, they go to a church at a different end of their city and sing “One Hand, One Heart,” enjoying their date.
It is quoted appropriately that they would chant nuptial oaths to one another inside a church and have their date after meeting the first time. This showcases the intensity of their relationship as compared to the older film.
The Rumble Takes Place in a Salt Warehouse
The Rumble in the 1961 film between the Jets and Sharks occurs under a bridge. Whereas the location is indicated in the 2021 West Side Story, it seems a more pragmatic approach by the characters to have the encounter in a salt warehouse so that they stay out of vision and it is difficult for the police to track them.