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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: December ::
Luhrmann vs. West Side Story
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.2154  Monday, 6 December 1999.

From:           Janet MacLellan <
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Date:           Sunday, 5 Dec 1999 23:07:37 -0500
Subject:        Luhrmann vs. West Side Story

Perry Herzfeld wrote:

>If teenagers need Romeo and Juliet to be mangled this
>far for it to be interesting, why not just see West Side Story.

Hmm...have you watched West Side Story with any teenagers lately?

Although I'm a big fan of the 1961 film, I suspect modern adolescents
would find certain aspects of its depiction of the rival gangs
laughable. In a world where pre-teens murder each other in ever more
brutal and casual fashion, West Side Story's stylization of gang
violence through dance-not to mention the heightened emotionality of its
score-has come to seem increasingly campy, and to be treated as such in
various pop-culture parodies. (Again, I say this as someone who adores
both Robbins's choreography and Bernstein's music.)

At the same time, however, the stage version of West Side Story shows no
sign of losing its relevance to teenagers: it has remained a popular
choice for high-school productions (often with the races changed to
reflect local tensions) and has even been produced with a cast of real
street kids, many of whom were deeply affected by the experience.

So, I'm genuinely curious. Have any listmembers shown the film to and/or
produced the play with high school students? How does the Luhrmann
generation respond to West Side Story? And does it respond differently
to the film version than to the stage version?

Janet MacLellan

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