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Film

Steven Spielberg reflects on Stephen Sondheim's career

@Russellisation

The American composer and iconic creator of West Side Story, Stephen Sondheim tragically passed away on November 26th, 2021, shortly before Steven Spielberg would release his remake of the classic film in cinema’s worldwide. Starring Ansel Elgort, Rachel Zegler, Ariana DeBose and Mike Faist, the film is a modern reimagining of the tale featuring all the classic theatre characters including Tony, Maria, Velma and Anita. 

Helmed by the iconic American filmmaker of Jaws, Jurassic Park and Ready Player One, Steven Spielberg, West Side Story is a loose adaptation of William Shakespeare’s classic, Romeo and Juliet, telling the story of two rival street gangs, the Jets and the Sharks. Concerning the passing of Stephen Sondheim and the release of Spielberg’s brand new film, the West Side Story director recently spoke with Empire magazine to share his thoughts. 

Asked whether Spielberg considered it a challenge to adapt the “dense and complicated” lyrics of Sondheim to a modern-day version of the film, the director replied, “No, not a challenge at all. The lyrics were a gift to the ages of anybody who loves storytelling through music – whether it’s opera or musicals, it’s a gift”. Outlining the life of the iconic composer, Spielberg stated, “Steve always wanted to compose, not just write the words, and so both West Side Story and Gypsy were jobs he took”. 

Writing only the lyrics for the iconic 1961 film, whilst the music was written by Leonard Bernstein, Spielberg added, “I’ve never felt that Stephen felt that West Side Story was his favourite work. It’s when he started becoming a nonlinear experimental composer, artist, where he really started to change the culture of theatre”.

Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story is out now in cinema’s worldwide, starring Rachel Zegler, Ariana DeBose, Mike Faist, Ansel Elgort, Ezra Menas and Rita Moreno.