Just imagine, if you dare, a roomful of seventh-grade boys, singing “Maria” from mimeographed sheets of paper. Such was my first introduction to West Side Story, inspiring a love which has lasted a lifetime.
A lot of kids didn’t like music class, or any class in which honoring and exploring various forms of creativity was the raison d’être, I suppose.
But back to the Sharks and the Jets. West Side Story is the perfect movie musical for a young man who is, as they say, coming of age. It’s about love, hate, bigotry, peer pressure and how the heavy hand of blind authority can sometimes make a situation worse than it needs to be.
As I say, I discovered West Side Story through those mimeographed sheets of the lyrics, which I took home and sang to our long-suffering dogs – something I have continued to do with several generations of dogs throughout the years.
A few years later, in high school, I read the screenplay in a paperback, and then, not long after, I was able to see the movie when it was released to theaters again in the early 1970s.
I was held fast in my seat from the very start. This movie spoke to me in a way that nothing else ever had before, and possibly since.
It has long been my belief, even though I can’t dance worth a damn – a fact which has frustrated more than one woman in my life – that life should be a musical, and that if life were fair and just, we’d be able to break into song and dance at a moment’s notice.
Obviously, we young tadpoles in junior high school were only given the love songs to learn; “Gee, Officer Krupke” was not offered to us. Well, we were probably too young to appreciate it, and, going to school on a military base in the 60s, well, authority was not a thing to be mocked.
If you haven’t seen West Side Story for a while, why not pop a copy into your old Betamax and let it wash over you. And if you haven’t seen it, well, I hope you might be inspired to check it out.
And yeah, it’s the perfect musical for young people, no matter what age they may be.
Really? You have to ask?
Now on YouTube: Dotty Oliver
Some yeas ago it was my great privilege to write for the late Dotty Oliver of the Little Rock Free Press. Finally we had a chance to sit down in front of some cameras and talk about the FREEP and Arkansas politics in general, including the time that she was sued by Mike Huckabee.
Dotty Oliver: Little Rock Free Press Memories
Quote of the Day
Human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. – Howard Zinn