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Movies

Ready for a singalong? Here's how to watch the 2021 West Side Story film in Australia

A musical-theatre classic, reinvented.

By Alex Lilly
It's an absolute classic that musical theatre fans have been singing along to since the sixties, but West Side Story had a makeover in 2021.
Directed by screen legend Steven Spielberg, the adaptation features all the iconic tunes including America, Tonight and Somewhere but there are some changes that had to be made in a 21st century context.
Ansel Elgort and Rachel Zegler play star-crossed lovers Tony and Maria. (Image: 20th Century Studios)
In case you need a plot refresher, West Side Story is an adaptation of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet set in mid-1950s New York City.
Rival street gangs the Jets, who are white, and the Sharks, who are Puerto Rican, are locked in a bitter feud but when Tony, a Jet boy and Maria, a Shark girl, fall in love, things get complicated.
Whilst The Fault In Our Stars and Baby Driver star Ansel Elgort plays the role of Tony, actress Rachel Zegler who plays Maria, made her film debut in this flick.
Ariana DeBose, David Alvarez, Mike Faist and Rita Moreno (who won an Oscar for her portrayal of Anita back in the original 1961 flick) join the cast in supporting roles.
It may have raked in the Oscars back in 1961, the 2021 version features some much-needed changes.
Not only did Spielberg make an effort to cast actors representing New York's diversity but there's also a lot more Spanish language integrated into the Sharks' dialogue too.
"It was our decision together that we would not subtitle it out of respect for the language, it's our second language in this nation," the director said of his and screenwriter Tony Kushner's use of Spanish.
It's a stark contrast to the 1961 film where actors playing Sharks were forced to wear dark makeup.
"I used to hate that very dark makeup that they used on all the Sharks. I mean we were really all mostly one shade. And I said 'God I hate this makeup. Why does it have to be so dark?' I said 'I'm Puerto Rican!' I said 'Why can't we be my colour?'" Rita Moreno, the original Anita, recalled.
Director Steven Spielberg (centre) made an effort to cast actors representing New York's diversity. (Image: Instagram)
Despite the subtle changes, original fans won't be disappointed and will find themselves singing, dancing and clicking along for the duration of the film.
If you're keen to watch it and didn't get a chance to see it in the cinema though, you can watch from the comfort of your own home.
Stream it now on Disney Plus, live and on demand with a month-to-month or annual subscription. SIGN UP NOW.
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