Can West Side Story Be Saved from Itself?

Ansel Elgort (Tony) and Rachel Zegler (Maria) in West Side Story. (Niko Tavernise/20th Century Fox)
Steven Spielberg’s mission is to make a famously corny plot stand up amid the gorgeous songs.

NRPLUS MEMBER ARTICLE W hen people say they love Pirouetting Gangsters of 1957, a.k.a West Side Story, what they’re really saying is that they love a portion of it: the songs. The slate of offerings from Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim is Hall of Fame stuff — in the all-time top ten.

Two-thirds of the show, however, is the book, a.k.a the bits between the songs, and those parts are uniformly terrible — corny, campy, forced, melodramatic sludge. The show was the creation of four well-heeled gay Jews (Arthur Laurents and Jerome Robbins were the others) who hadn’t the slightest insight about, or interest in,

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