Though one of Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim's most enduring songs, West Side Story's "I Feel Pretty" was famously one of Sondheim's least favorite lyrics from his canon. For director Steven Spielberg's new film adaptation of the 1957 musical, screenwriter Tony Kushner was given the freedom to dramatically reimagine the Broadway favorite. Watch above as Kushner explains how his re-setting of "I Feel Pretty" was designed specifically to address Sondheim's problems with his own lyric.
The clip comes from The Stories of West Side Story, a bonus feature included with the home video release of West Side Story, which dropped March 15 on Blu-ray, Blu-ray 4k, and for digital purchase. The 90-minute documentary feature offers a comprehensive behind-the-scenes look at the Academy Award-nominated film and the Broadway musical from which it was adapted. The digital purchase and physical releases of West Side Story follow the streaming release of the film on HBO Max and Disney+, which became available March 2.
The film, recently nominated for seven Academy Awards including Best Picture, premiered in movie theatres December 10, 2021. (The film had originally been scheduled for release in December 2020 but was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.)
Broadway's Ariana DeBose (Hamilton, A Bronx Tale) also received an Oscar nod as Best Supporting Actress for her performance as Anita, just the latest in DeBose's successful awards season that has included Golden Globe, SAG, BAFTA, and Critics' Choice Awards wins, among others.
DeBose is joined in the cast by Ansel Elgort as Tony, Rachel Zegler as Maria, Tony winner David Alvarez (Billy Elliot) as Bernardo, Josh Andrés Rivera as Chino, Tony nominee Brian d’Arcy James as Officer Krupke, Corey Stoll as Lieutenant Schrank, and EGOT winner and star of the original 1961 film Rita Moreno in the newly created role of Valentina (a take on the character of Doc).
A host of Broadway alumni help fill out the cast, including Dear Evan Hansen Tony nominee Mike Faist, Iris Menas, Paloma Garcia-Lee, David and Jacob Guzman, Ricky Ubeda, Ben Cook, Sara Esty, Garett Hawe, Talia Ryder, Tanairi Vazquez, Eloise Kropp, Kevin Csolak, Julius Anthony Rubio, and Jess LeProtto.
Adapted from the Broadway musical with a book by Arthur Laurents, music by Leonard Bernstein, and lyrics by Sondheim (who passed away November 26 at the age of 91), the film features a screenplay by Tony and Pulitzer Prize–winning playwright Kushner (who also serves as executive producer) that introduces some new plot elements and tinkers with how Bernstein and Sondheim's songs are used in the story. The film also features new choreography by Tony winner Justin Peck.
West Side Story opened on Broadway at the Winter Garden Theatre September 26, 1957. It played 732 performances before closing June 27, 1959. Conceived, directed, and choreographed by Jerome Robbins, the original cast included Larry Kert as Tony, Carol Lawrence as Maria, and Chita Rivera as Anita. Robbins won the Tony Award for his choreography, and Oliver Smith took home the prize for Best Scenic Design. It was nominated as Best Musical but lost to The Music Man.
The memorable Bernstein-Sondheim score boasts such tunes as "Tonight," "America," "Maria," "I Feel Pretty," and "Somewhere."