Sunday, February 13, 2022

What West Side Story Meant to Me Growing Up

Our family entertainment on Christmas Eve is going to be watching West Side Story. I am looking forward to this with great anticipation I have read the critiques of the original production and the most recent version in terms of portrayal of Puerto Ricans and am not about to contest those viewpoints. But I have a profound emotional attachment to the songs in West Side Story that go back to my childhood and I am looking forward to revisiting them 60 years later Because what touched me about West Side Story, then, and probably will still touch me now, was the idea that love was possible amidst violence and conflict. At the dawn of my teenage years, songs like "There's a Place for Us" and "One Hand One Heart" allowed me to dream that the tense atmosphere in my family, and the fights that I faced almost every day in school and in my neighborhood, would fade into the background and I could find love and peace in a world where both of those seemed to be in short supply The soundtrack to West Side Story was something I cherished privately, along with songs by the Everly Brothers and the Drifters, because it gave me hope that I could someday escape the Crown Heights of my youth, where bullying and conflict was literally around every corner It also affirmed the possibility that people growing up in the grittiest and toughest New York neighborhoods were not doomed by the prejudices that surrounded them and could find beauty where others only saw pain These are my memories of this legendary musical. Let's see if the new version has the same emotional impact as the old one did

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