Steven Spielberg's West Side Story is currently in theaters, and it's the perfect opportunity to re-acquaint yourself with a classic...or see it for the first time if you never have before!
West Side Story was originally a Broadway musical that premiered in 1957, but the version most people have seen is the 1961 film co-directed by Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins.
Well, it's been 60 years since then, so it stands to reason that there might be a some changes between the old film and the new one. So here are all the differences between West Side Story (1961) and West Side Story (2021):
1. The songs are in a different order, and there is one new song in the 2021 movie.
2. Despite the plot being largely similar, the dialogue is completely new.
3. The costumes are just as era-appropriate as they were in the original film, but they're more discreetly color coded for the gangs.
4. Anita's "America" dress is yellow, not purple.
5. The 2021 movie incorporates more specific Puerto Rican cultural references, including a large portion of Spanish dialogue.
The opening number features a mural with a quote from Puerto Rican luminary Pedro Albizu Campus, the Sharks sing "La Borinqueña," and the characters incorporate accurate Puerto Rican slang into their conversations. Most noticeable of all is the sheer amount of (not subtitled) Spanish in this movie.
6. The Puerto Rican characters are all played by Latinx actors.
7. The historical and social context of both gangs is more fleshed out.
The movie mentions the US and Puerto Rico's confusing relationship (PR isn't a state, but Puerto Ricans are US citizens) and clarifies that the Sharks are seen as heroes by their community for defending them from harassment. The Jets sing about their many disadvantages in "Gee, Officer Krupke," but the movie also includes more details about their past conflicts with other gangs.
8. Rather than reusing the original choreography by Jerome Robbins, the 2021 movie features new moves by Justin Peck.
9. The fight choreography is more realistic and violent.
The fight moves still have a balletic quality to them, but the Sharks push a nail through Baby John's earlobe in the opening number.
10. Doc isn't in the new movie, and has been replaced by Valentina — 6who is played by Rita Moreno, aka Anita from the original movie.
11. Tony's backstory is expanded, and we learn that he left the Jets after spending a year in prison for almost killing someone during a rumble.
12. Chino's role is expanded, and he isn't a member of the Sharks this time around.
13. There is more depth to the family dynamic between Bernardo, Anita, and Maria.
Bernardo wants to marry Anita and move back to Puerto Rico, but she wants to stay in the US and refuses to marry him unless he leaves the Sharks. Bernardo moved to the US five years before Maria, during which time she was taking care of their father in PR.
14. "America" is a huge number in this version and features slightly different lyrics.
15. The movie (briefly) addresses racism and colorism within the Puerto Rican community by mentioning Anita's skin color and having her call Bernardo "jincho."
16. Anybodys explicitly identifies as a man and is played by nonbinary actor Iris Menas.
17. Tony and Maria spend more time together, and they go on an actual date, which didn't happen in the original movie.
It's a small addition, but it helps to sell the whole "we fell in love in a matter of hours" bit.
18. "Cool" happens before the rumble and has been reformulated as a confrontation between Tony and Riff.
19. Riff doesn't sing the lead part in "Gee, Officer Krupke." In fact, he's not even in the number.
The song is basically the same in both versions, just sung by different members of the Jets.
20. Valentina sings "Somewhere" when she learns about the tragic events of the rumble.
It was originally sung by Maria.
21. Finally, the scene in which the Jets attack Anita is different in both movies.
Did you have a favorite version? Can't decide and love them both equally? Discuss, please!
I actually think I prefer the new one?? Sue me.