"West Side Story" on Stage: It Will Make You Feel Pretty and Witty and Gay

Okay. First thing's first. The stage version of West Side Story is a little bit gay. Oh, who am I kidding? It's a whole hell of a lot gay. Like, hot-guys-in-tight-fitting-clothes-dancing-and-singing-and-wrestling-each-other gay.

Aside from that obvious yet delightful observation, I walked away from the touring production of West Side Story at the Pantages Theatre in Los Angeles with a several more notes:

1.) I love the movie as much as you do, but, goddamn, this musical live on stage is a thing of such overwhelming artistic beauty that I found myself frequently overcome with emotion. Not because of the sad parts or anything (people die, remember?), but because the spectacle of the staging (which has been re-created by David Saint from Arthur Laurents's current Broadway version) and the choreography (which has been re-created by Joey McKneely from Jerome Robbins's original dancing) are freaking amazing. My mom was sitting next to me (Merry Christmas, Mother, those tickets were expensive!), so I had to hold back tears for fear of looking like a little bitch.

2.) Seeing West Side Story on stage is such a different experience from watching the film (which I've seen multiple times, including one beautiful print at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco) that I felt like I was experiencing something brand new. Things constantly surprised me. And even the songs I hadn't really dug all these years (c'mon, you don't love every tune from this show) sounded great. It's an obvious point, but songs in musicals really are, after all, meant to be heard in context. Ah, Leonard Bernstein. Ah, Stephen Sondheim. I'm not a musicals-nerd, but I would kiss the ground you walked/walk on.

3.) In true back-to-the-original form, most of the scenes which feature members of the Puerto Rican Sharks clan are spoken almost entirely in Spanish. Also, roughly half of "America," "I Feel Pretty," and "A Boy Like That" feature Spanish lyrics, which sounds way cool and way authentic. But, hey!, unfortunately, honoring the source means that the line I sing to myself repeatedly in the mirror—"I feel pretty and witty and gay!"—has been changed back to the boring old "I feel pretty and witty and bright."

4.) This production—which runs in Los Angeles and New York until January 2, 2010, and then tours the rest of the country—is also sexy, sexy, sexy, whether you like the mens or the womens, 'cause the dancing is hot. And when the ridiculously muscly guy playing Tony (Kyle Harris on the tour) appears in a wife-beater and the girl playing Maria (Ali Ewoldt) succumbs to his charms in her virginal white nighty, I could hear the audience release a collective gasp. And I made a mental note to cyber-stalk after the show.

...Miss this at your own peril, people!

For more information about West Side Story on Broadway and on tour, go to the official website.


  1. But have you heard Little Richard sing "I Feel Pretty?"