After all this time, West Side Story actually sucks?

I haven’t talked much about musicals on here, and the fact that this is my second reference to West Side Story may imply that I’m a huge fan of it. In reality, I’m not a huge fan, but I easily consider the 1961 movie a crucial part of my early music/theater education. (Interesting. I’m always intimidated when I hear stories about great musicians who sat in their basement as children pouring over opera scores and symphony recordings. Meanwhile, I was in my basement with my brother singing along to West Side Story–being irritated because he took the boy parts and made me sing the girl parts.)

With all of the hub about a London revival and the upcoming 2009 Broadway revival, Geoffrey Wheatcroft criticizes not the most recent production he saw, but the musical’s legacy as one of the greatest American musicals.

“I like to be in America – but should I like to be at West Side Story? The 50th-anniversary revival just opened in London has produced a flood of nostalgic adulation and, like anyone of my age, I can still whistle half the numbers. But renditions a good deal better than my own have only increased my doubts over the years. There have been greater American musicals, and there is something wrong with West Side Story.”

Read the whole article here.

I really appreciate this kind of criticism actually. It’s a little too easy for art to become a masterpiece; the result is something that is revered as much as it is boring–especially when you’re dealing with an artform where the work needs to be interpreted and recreated over and over again to exist. I suppose this kind of criticism is done frequently with opera and classical music (enter Susan McClary, Catherine Clement and Nicholas Till), and maybe it’s simply too soon to treat American musical theater as a reputable genre. Or maybe we never will.


~ by ohactually on August 12, 2008.

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