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The story goes like this…on Broadway before the premier of West Side Story, no one knew what to expect. People went to Broadway musicals to have their spirits uplifted and this was not a happy musical. This play would not give the audience the happy ending that was usually expected. All involved were truly afraid of how the audience would accept the show.
With talents like Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim, Jerome Robbins, Carol Lawrence and Larry Kert, the play had all the makings for a magical night in the theater. But then again, this was a different kind of musical.
On opening night at the end of the show, there was dead silence. Then all of a sudden, the entire audience stood up and began applauding and continued to do so for many minutes. It really became a magical, theatrical moment.
The movie with choreographer Jerome Robbins was just as good. Both George Chakiris and Rita Moreno both won Academy Awards for their performances. The movie altogether won 10 Academy Awards. Natalie Wood, who did not sing nor dance, felt uncomfortable in the role of Maria with so many singers and dancers around her. But Natalie really wanted this part and she was beautiful and touching and her performance held the show together. A truly wonderful film and these stills showcase this.
One of my favorite shows was Gypsy, which is the story of Gypsy Rose Lee, America’s most famous stripper when “stripping was an art form”. Gypsy told the story of her stage mother, Mama Rose, who wouldn’t take “no” for an answer. Traveling with her children on the Vaudeville Circuit, she ultimately alienates everyone in her life except her daughter Rose. Then one night, there was no more Vaudeville work to be had for Mama Rose and her daughter. They wind up in a house of Burlesque. Gypsy is required to strip but in those days, it was not quite as risqué as it is now. The movie was tasteful, elegant, and eloquent. Natalie Wood was beautiful and the music…the best.
Remember: “You gotta have a gimmick!” (If you want to get ahead)