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Theater Talk: Steven Spielberg/Tony Kushner remake of WEST SIDE STORY is a lush, gorgeous movie with considerable added context

WEST SIDE STORY 2021 L-R Ariana DeBose as Anita, David Alvarez as Bernardo, on location photo courtesy of Disney.png
On location for WEST SIDE STORY 2021 L-R "Schmigadoon's" Ariana DeBose as Anita, "Billy Elliot's" David Alvarez as Bernardo,

Opinions are strong and mixed for Steven Spielberg's 2021 remake of the 1957 movie WEST SIDE STORY which was based on the original Broadway musical. This was a collaboration of Spielberg with a new book by Tony Kushner, choreography by Justin Peck, and involvement with Stephen Sondheim who wrote the original Broadway lyrics. People and critics either love it or hate it, although most of the negative comments take issue with cultural appropriation and casting choices. As far as a movie goes, most agree that it is beautifully filmed using New York City as almost an extra character.

Anthony and Peter particularly enjoyed that Kushner added to the original Arthur Laurents book and gave everyone a back story and some context. Anita (Ariana DeBose) is not just Bernardo's (David Alvarez) girl, she is a business woman with plans. There are reasons why Riff is the way he is and a backstory to Tony that makes his dramatic arc much more believable. Even Chino becomes much more than just Maria's date.

Some scenes are spectacular, especially the high school dance including "Mambo," Maria's song "I feel pretty" filmed in Gimbles' department store, and "America" (see photo) which takes to the streets. The music by Leonard Bernstein is performed by his old orchestra, the New York Philharmonic, conducted by Gustavo Dudamel. Theater Talk highly recommends this movie and will be seeing it a second time soon.


MIRACLE IN LEVITTOWN, play by Michael Fanelli, presented by Subversive Theatre at The New Phoenix Theatre, (December 3 - 19) Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm, Sundays at 3:00. (716-608-3001) subversivetheatre.org Note: This is NOT a New Phoenix production and the start times are at 7:30 pm or 3:00 Sundays at 95 Johnson Park, Buffalo, NY. Described as "an off-the-wall, tongue-in-cheek, mind-bending misadventure that takes audiences to a spoofy part two of "Miracle on 34th Street" where the sweet little girl from the classic Christmas Tale discovers the ugly truth about racial discrimination in the new housing development that her family has just moved into and embarks on a surreal eye-opening odyssey through past, present, and future."

MIRACLE ON SOUTH DIVISION, play by Tom Dudzick, about Christmas in South Buffalo (December 3 - 19) Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm, Sundays at 2:30. Lancaster Opera House, 21 Central Avenue Lancaster, NY 14086 (716-683-1776) lancasteropera.org

SMART PEOPLE, a play by Lydia R. Diamond, directed by Phil Knoerzer, about four Harvard community members dealing with racial issues runs through December 19, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30, Sundays at 4:00 presented by Ujima Company Inc. The Lorna C. Hill Theatre is located in School 77, 429 Plymouth Avenue, Buffalo, 14213 (716-322-5178) ujimacommunity.org 

THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF SANTA CLAUS, musical, presented by O'Connell & Company (December 3 - December 19) Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00, Sundays at 2:00 on the Ken-Ton Elmwood Commons Mainstage, 3200 Elmwood Avenue, Tonawanda, NY 14217 (oconnellandcompany.com) (716-848-0800) "Based on the book by L. Frank Baum, author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, this musical chronicles the life of Claus."

TRIBUTE, a play by Bernard Slade, directed by Jay Desiderio, continues at Desiderio's Dinner Theatre through December 18 in the back of Bobby J's American Grill 204 Como Park Blvd Cheektowaga featuring Gregory Gjurich, Zachery Gammel, Lisa Hinca, Jennifer Starr, Lisa Ludwig, Robert Insana, and Marie Costa. Shows run most Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays (& some Wednesdays). (http://www.mybobbyjs.com/desiderio-s-dinner-theatre) Reservations by telephone only 716-395-3207 Evening: 6pm Dinner, 7:30pm Show Matinee: 1pm Dinner, 2:30pm Show


A CHRISTMAS CAROL, play with caroling, based on the short story by Charles Dickens, 39th Annual Production, adapted and directed by Neal Radice, December 3-23, Thursdays and Fridays at 7:30, Saturdays and Sundays at 2:00 and 5:00 at The Alleyway Theatre, 1 Curtain up Alley (just north of Shea's), Buffalo, NY 14202

(716-852-2600) alleyway.comOPENINGS (listed by date, then alphabetically):

HAMILTON, Dec 14, 2021-Jan 2, 2022 (a three week run!) Tuesday - Friday at 7:30 pm, Saturday at 2:00 and 8:00, Sunday at 1:00 and 6:30 (performances on Christmas Day, New Year's Eve, and New Year's Day but NO PERFORMANCE CHRISTMAS EVE DECEMBER 24.) Shea's Performing Arts Center, 650 Main St. Buffalo (716-847-1410) Sheas.org.

OPENINGS: Nothing until January, 2022

Listen for Theater Talk, Friday morning at 6:45 and 8:45 during Morning Edition.
Even though "semi-retired," Peter Hall continues to wear many hats. He is the Sunday afternoon host on WBFO’s “sister station,” Classical 94.5 / WNED where he has produced over 1,000 radio interviews with musical artists. If you see him at a theater with a pen in his hand, he’s probably getting ready to co-host “Theater Talk” with Anthony Chase (heard Friday mornings at 6:45 and 8:45 a.m. on WBFO) or to write a review for www.buffalorising.com. He is also a member of the "Artie Awards" committee (think “Tony Awards for Buffalo theaters”).
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