https://www.indiewire.com/2021/11/west-side-story-first-reactions-steven-spielberg-musical-1234682024/

Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of the beloved musical “West Side Story” finally began to screen for awards voters over the weekend ahead of its Christmas Day release. First reactions are pouring out as the film’s official premiere at the El Capitan Theatre in Los Angeles gets underway. Early reactions are offering praise for Spielberg’s direction and high marks for Rachel Zegler as Maria in her film debut.

The musical premiered mere days after the death of Stephen Sondheim (who wrote the lyrics for the original production, with a book by Arthur Laurents and score by Leonard Bernstein) at the age of 91. Highest praise for the new film version came from the composer himself, who back in September dropped by “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” to talk about the most recent stage production of “Company” and, of course, Spielberg’s movie.

“It’s really terrific,” Sondheim said of the film. “Everybody go. You’ll really have a good time. And for those of you who know the show, there’s going to be some real surprises.”

Sondheim said that’s because of Pulitzer Prize-winner Tony Kushner, who has received two screenplay Oscar nominations for adapting the Spielberg films “Munich” and “Lincoln.”

Sondheim said Kushner “has done some really imaginative and surprising things with the way the songs are used in the story, and the whole thing has real sparkle to it and real energy, and it feels fresh. It’s really first-grade, and movie musicals are hard to do and this one, Spielberg and Kushner really, really nailed it.”

In addition to Zegler, this new version stars Ansel Elgort as Tony, Ariana DeBose as Anita, and David Alvarez as Bernardo. Rita Moreno, Best Supporting Actess Oscar winner for the original Best Picture-winning film, also makes a cameo appearance as Valentina.

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