West Side Story first reactions: ‘Top-tier’ Steven Spielberg – ‘Phenomenal, I was floored’

Originally set for release last Christmas, Steven Spielberg’s first musical adaptation based on Stephen Sondheim’s classic is now ready to hit cinemas this December. It’s been 60 years since the original iconic movie was released but can the Hollywood legend pull off a remake? According to the first reactions on Twitter following last night’s New York premiere, West Side Story could be headed for Oscars glory.


Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story is bold and stirring. The best parts are Tony Kushner’s book and the dramatic reimagining of classic numbers such as America and Somewhere. Ansel was a bit flat, but the rest of the cast is great and it feels like an Oscars contender.

It’s hard to overpraise Ariana DeBose, whose Anita is the wounded soul of the film. She has the best lines, dances and sings with so much passion that the screen can hardly contain her.

The cinematography is another standout. Spielberg and longtime DP Janusz Kaminski create some of their most striking images. Also, Kushner’s script departs notably from the original book (gentrification and racism are the film’s primary antagonists). But some things don’t age as well. Like the humour. Apologies to musical theatre purists. Gee, Officer Krupke may have been a riot in its day, but in 2021 it’s pretty much a laugh-free affair.


Hot damn. So, yes, as it turns out, Steven Spielberg knows how to make a WEST SIDE STORY movie.

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West Side Story first reactions: ‘Top-tier’ Steven Spielberg – ‘Phenomenal, I was floored’

West Side Story first reactions: ‘Top tier’ Steven Spielberg – ‘Phenomenal, I was floored’ (Image: WB)

west side story gangs

West Side Story stars Ansel Elgort and Rachel Zegler as Tony and María (Image: WB)


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Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story is a triumph! It’s beautiful & brilliantly photographed – a real love letter to NYC with a tremendous ensemble cast who truly redefine this classic story for a new generation. Shoutouts to Rachel Zegler and Ariana DeBose who CRUSH it in this film.

Honestly, I was floored by some sequences, and it’s films like this that remind you why Spielberg is one of our greatest filmmakers ever.

I just watched the ‘61 film and Spielberg’s West Side Story is bigger, more powerful & poignant. It’s alive with colour and language & a ton of love.

The Observer

I’m most impressed with the new West Side Story’s staging. It feels more like a world than a set. And Ariana DeBose is magnetic as Anita, for me, it’s her film. However, Ansel is straining…..

rita in both movies

Rita Moreno in both West Side Story movies 60 years apart (Image: WB/GETTY)

Slash Film

West Side Story is phenomenal Steven Spielberg has been talking about making a musical for almost his entire career, and this was worth the wait. This is top-tier Spielberg.

Been having a rather awful few days and I walked out of this like I was walking on air. Thank you, Mr Spielberg.


West Side Story is beautifully staged and mounted, effective in reframing some major musical numbers, but largely so faithful that even its handsomeness feels like: what is the point of all this exactly?

Meanwhile, critics also pointed out that Spielberg made the bold choice for Spanish dialogue in the movie to not have subtitles.

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West Side Story is inspired by William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and follows teenagers Tony and María’s romance in 1950s New York City.

The couple have affiliations with rival street gangs the Jets and Sharks, the latter being a group of Puerto Ricans.

The 1961 original movie’s Anita was played by Rita Moreno, who returns in Spielberg’s remake as a newly created character called Valentina.

West Side Story hits UK cinemas on December 10, 2021.

Read More: Hollywood News


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