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WEST SIDE STORY


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Most musicals are musical comedies. WEST SIDE STORY is not a comedy. What other memorable musicals are not comedies?

 

Gypsy

 

Pal Joey

 

Show Boat

 

Oklahoma!

 

Carousel

 

The King & I

 

South Pacific

 

It's Always Fair Weather

 

There is also the tradition of backstage musicals: The Jazz Singer, Applause, For Me & My Gal, Cover Girl, etc...

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Gypsy

 

Pal Joey

 

Show Boat

 

Oklahoma!

 

Carousel

 

The King & I

 

South Pacific

 

It's Always Fair Weather

 

There is also the tradition of backstage musicals: The Jazz Singer, Applause, For Me & My Gal, Cover Girl, etc...

Good job. I don't believe that distinction has ever been drawn on these boards.

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Most musicals are musical comedies. WEST SIDE STORY is not a comedy. What other memorable musicals are not comedies?

 

I'd say West Side Story is very much a comedy, even if it's a comedy of the unintentional variety.

 

There are two basic types of musicals:  The ones where the actors break out in song at any point for no apparent reason (West Side Story; Singing in the Rain; etc.), and the ones that are basically dramas or comedies centered around the production of a show, with the musical numbers being openly a part of the show itself (42nd Street; A Star Is Born; etc.).  Which type are you referring to?

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I'd say West Side Story is very much a comedy, even if it's a comedy of the unintentional variety.

 

There are two basic types of musicals:  The ones where the actors break out in song at any point for no apparent reason (West Side Story; Singing in the Rain; etc.), and the ones that are basically dramas or comedies centered around the production of a show, with the musical numbers being openly a part of the show itself (42nd Street; A Star Is Born; etc.).  Which type are you referring to?

Maybe its just me, but I don't find rumbles, fights and killings to be rib-tickling.

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I'd say West Side Story is very much a comedy, even if it's a comedy of the unintentional variety.

 

There are two basic types of musicals:  The ones where the actors break out in song at any point for no apparent reason (West Side Story; Singing in the Rain; etc.), and the ones that are basically dramas or comedies centered around the production of a show, with the musical numbers being openly a part of the show itself (42nd Street; A Star Is Born; etc.).  Which type are you referring to?

 

The significant dramatic differentiation begins with Show Boat (1927), which was not an operetta but also not a "musical comedy", as the popular term of the time was. SB's emphasis is not comic or light romantic, but as seriously dramatic as any straight play.

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Maybe its just me, but I don't find rumbles, fights and killings to be rib-tickling.

 

I'm talking about the entire concept of gang members breaking out in song at the drop of a hat, complete with arms thrusting in the air as if they were ballet dancers or Judy Garland parodies.   I know I'm in a minority here, but that just ain't my cup of tea.

 

West-Side-Story-Film-stil-007.jpg

 

RussTamblyn.jpg

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I remember reading a copy of the script to the STAGE PLAY somewhere(for some reason) and ran across a line of dialogue between Tony and Riff, in which they "avow" their everlastng friendship:

 

"From s p e r m to worm"!

 

Now, I might not have paid attention, but I guess I missed that line in the movie!

 

 

Sepiatone

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Alexanders' Ragtime Band (1939)

 

Invitation to the Dance (1957)

 

Cabaret (1972)

 

Million Dollar Mermaid (1952)

 

Hallelulujah (1929)

 

Pennies From Heaven (1981)

 

Tonight and Every Night (1945)

 

Miss Sadie Thompson (1953)

 

Meet Me in St Louis (1944)

 

Till the Clouds Roll By (1946)

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Now, I might not have paid attention, but I guess I missed that line in the movie!

 

 

Sepiatone

It's been a long time since I've seen a stage production of WEST SIDE STORY, but yes, there were several lines in the original that were changed for the movie. I can't remember specific ones, but I seem to recall that there were some in the "Officer Krupke" number.

 

I think you'd have to see a professional production to hear it that way. The company that controls the performance rights has a "cleaned-up" version for high school and community theater productions which is more in line with what they said in the movie.

 

Remember, Broadway has alway sbeen  more accepting of language like that than Hollywood  so it was pretty common that shows  adapted for the movies had changes in them.

 

Don''t forget too, that even in the 1960's when WSS was released, there were still state and local censor boards in the U.S. (New York was one of them)  that would never have  passed a film with that kind of language in it.

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It's been a long time since I've seen a stage production of WEST SIDE STORY, but yes, there were several lines in the original that were changed for the movie. I can't remember specific ones, but I seem to recall that there were some in the "Officer Krupke" number.

 

I think you'd have to see a professional production to hear it that way. The company that controls the performance rights has a "cleaned-up" version for high school and community theater productions which is more in line with what they said in the movie.

 

Remember, Broadway has alway sbeen  more accepting of language like that than Hollywood  so it was pretty common that shows  adapted for the movies had changes in them.

 

Don''t forget too, that even in the 1960's when WSS was released, there were still state and local censor boards in the U.S. (New York was one of them)  that would never have  passed a film with that kind of language in it.

 

" S-p-e-r-m to worm" was in the original stage production (and in subsequent Broadway revivals) of WEST SIDE STORY, but was cleaned up for the movie version. 

 

The "clean up" that annoys me the most is Anita's verse in the "Tonight" quintet.

 

The stage version:

"Anita's gonna get her kicks tonight. 

We'll have a private little mix tonight.

He'll walk in hot and tired.

So what.

Don't matter if he's tired

As long as he's hot."

 

 

The movie version:

Anita's gonna get her kicks tonight. 

We'll have a private little mix tonight.

He'll walk in hot and tired.

Poor dear.

Don't matter if he's tired

As long as he's here."

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I'm talking about the entire concept of gang members breaking out in song at the drop of a hat, complete with arms thrusting in the air as if they were ballet dancers or Judy Garland parodies.   I know I'm in a minority here, but that just ain't my cup of tea.

 

West-Side-Story-Film-stil-007.jpg

 

RussTamblyn.jpg

I understand that some of the "Crips" occasionally break into song, but the songs tend to be by Heavy D, Ice T, and NWA.

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I'd say West Side Story is very much a comedy, even if it's a comedy of the unintentional variety.

 

There are two basic types of musicals:  The ones where the actors break out in song at any point for no apparent reason (West Side Story; Singing in the Rain; etc.), and the ones that are basically dramas or comedies centered around the production of a show, with the musical numbers being openly a part of the show itself (42nd Street; A Star Is Born; etc.).  Which type are you referring to?

The apparent reason someone breaks out into song is that it is a musical, which features songs as well as spoken dialog, to further the plot.  That is the art form.  That is the reason.  The point isn't that they are breaking out in song, the point is the dialog continues.

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I saw a fabulous performance of West Side Story at the Palace Theater in Manchester, NH, this spring.  It was as if I had never seen this show before -- the dancing and acting had a raw quality and intense energy.  There were some exquisite moments like the beautifully lit balcony scene, and  the actor who played Tony made you believe that he had the desire to change his violent culture.  But also some very dark moments that made me realize how the film version is "cleaned up" and in many ways domesticated.  For instance, when Anita goes to the drugstore with the intention of bringing a message to the Sharks to warn Tony, the Sharks essentially try to gang rape her.  While no clothing is removed, it's a pretty raw scene, and it makes clear why Anita in her rage and shame yells at them to tell Tony that Maria is dead.   Anyway, after seeing this production, I don't think I could ever watch the film again -- it's a weak sister to what I am sure were the authors' and composer's original intent.

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I'd say West Side Story is very much a comedy, even if it's a comedy of the unintentional variety.

    

    There are two basic types of musicals:  The ones where the actors break out in song at any point for no apparent reason (West Side Story; Singing in the Rain; etc.), and the ones that are basically dramas or comedies centered around the production of a show, with the musical numbers being openly a part of the show itself (42nd Street; A Star Is Born; etc.).  Which type are you referring to?

 

The apparent reason someone breaks out into song is that it is a musical, which features songs as well as spoken dialog, to further the plot.  That is the art form.  That is the reason.  The point isn't that they are breaking out in song, the point is the dialog continues.

 

Of course that's the "reason".  I was only making a rhetorical point.  But the whole concept is an artificial gimmick that demands virtual perfection to make it come off well.  Obviously this is nothing but a matter of opinion, even if it's one I hold rather strongly.

 

Not that there aren't some perfectly enjoyable musicals of that sort---Singing in the Rain, Damn Yankees, etc., and to take it to the extreme, the utterly charming Umbrellas of Cherbourg, where every line is sung.  But all I was doing with my original comment is distinguishing this sort of musical from the Busby Berkeley / 42nd Street variety, which as a sub-genre I find far less eye-rolling in general.  And as for West Side Story, I'd rather hear Lina Lamont accompany a castrati glee club in "Old Man River" than to have to watch that movie all the way through.

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Of course that's the "reason".  I was only making a rhetorical point.  But the whole concept is an artificial gimmick that demands virtual perfection to make it come off well.  Obviously this is nothing but a matter of opinion, even if it's one I hold rather strongly.

 

Not that there aren't some perfectly enjoyable musicals of that sort---Singing in the Rain, Damn Yankees, etc., and to take it to the extreme, the utterly charming Umbrellas of Cherbourg, where every line is sung.  But all I was doing with my original comment is distinguishing this sort of musical from the Busby Berkeley / 42nd Street variety, which as a sub-genre I find far less eye-rolling in general.  And as for West Side Story, I'd rather hear Lina Lamont accompany a castrati glee club in "Old Man River" than to have to watch that movie all the way through.

 

It always amuses me when people comment on the 'artificiality' of musicals where people sing as part of the story, as opposed to the performances taking place as part of actual performances.  This in a medium the entire object and craft of which is to distort reality to excessive degrees so that, when taken a picture of, will represent on a two dimensional surface something that will generally be viewed as an acceptable representation of the three dimensional world.  The absurdity of people braking out into song in the middle of the action of a movie pales in comparison to the greater absurdity of the motion picture itself.

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It always amuses me when people comment on the 'artificiality' of musicals where people sing as part of the story, as opposed to the performances taking place as part of actual performances.  This in a medium the entire object and craft of which is to distort reality to excessive degrees so that, when taken a picture of, will represent on a two dimensional surface something that will generally be viewed as an acceptable representation of the three dimensional world.  The absurdity of people braking out into song in the middle of the action of a movie pales in comparison to the greater absurdity of the motion picture itself.

Exactly!  Certainly no more absurd than people dancing, flattening tables in a saloon by falling on them, hitting someone over the head with a bottle and having it shatter, running from an earthquake on the fault line, a stewardess landing a plane, making a dress from drapes, having a dream in Technicolor; and, on and on and on and on.

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In thinking about it, there are probably as many musical films that are basically non-comedic as those which are basically comedies. GIGI, e.g., is basically not a comedy.

Broadway-sourced musicals are generally a combination of some comedy and some drama.  Even WSS has its light moments.

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The classification of "comedy" as a category in theater is anything that has a happy ending or at least a resolution where the characters achieve their goals romantically or otherwise.  This idea originated with Shakespeare's comedies -- some of his comedies have tragic elements, such as The Merchant of Venice or Measure for Measure -- but have a "happy" resolution.  By that standard, West Side Story is still a tragedy not a comedy.  Most traditional musicals, however, are comedies by that definition, unless one is venturing into Steven Sondheim and some of the more contemporary musicals.

The roots of American musical are opera and in the case of West Side Story and other "dance heavy" shows, ballet.  With those genres, there is already the expectation that the audience suspends disbelief and expects music and/or dance to communicate the action and feelings of the characters.  So I don't find watching West Side Story where characters burst into dance to be especially jarring.

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Broadway-sourced musicals are generally a combination of some comedy and some drama.  Even WSS has its light moments.

Aside from "Officer Krupke", I can't think of many, unless you consider Marni Nixon's voice coming out of Natalie Wood's mouth to be funny.

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It always amuses me when people comment on the 'artificiality' of musicals where people sing as part of the story, as opposed to the performances taking place as part of actual performances.  This in a medium the entire object and craft of which is to distort reality to excessive degrees so that, when taken a picture of, will represent on a two dimensional surface something that will generally be viewed as an acceptable representation of the three dimensional world.  The absurdity of people braking out into song in the middle of the action of a movie pales in comparison to the greater absurdity of the motion picture itself.

 

That's a point that sounds better in the abstract than in any real world comparison.  City kids in the 30's often approximated the speech patterns of Jimmy Cagney, even if sometimes only in imitation.  I've heard plenty of people affect conversation along the lines of William Powell or Cary Grant, even if only amateurishly.  Many people, at least in the past, strove to emulate the rigid mores of the code era films. And gunfights, murders, and domestic and corporate intrigues are part and parcel of everyday civilization, even if they don't always mimic the movies.  All of this may not be "realistic", but at least it's being presented as such.

 

But in all my years, I've never yet heard a single person spontaneously burst out into song as a way of continuing a conversation, and never mind the choreographed arm waving a la Judy Garland or Al Jolson.   The only real comparisons to the absurdity of singing dialogue are the special effects (car chases, super hero duels, any animated movies, etc.) you get in certain genres aimed at adolescents of all ages, and even there that's more a wildly exaggerated version of real life than anything that's completely foreign to it.

 

None of this means that some of those musicals can't be fun to watch and brilliantly conceived, but that's a completely different matter.  Let's just call them delightful absurdities.

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