‘West Side Story’ first reactions: Steven Spielberg’s remake could do as well as the original film

Something’s coming, something good, at least if the early responses to Steven Spielberg’s remake of “West Side Story” are any indication. The highly anticipated 20th Century Studios film had its first screenings in New York and Los Angeles on Monday night and left audiences thrilled with how Spielberg and writer Tony Kushner reconceptualized, reconfigured, and restaged the 1961 musical adaptation from Robert Wise that won Best Picture.

“Spielberg has been rehearsing to make a musical for 50 years so it’s not like he was gonna mess up one of the greatest ever written,” Indiewire critic David Ehrlich wrote on Twitter.

Below the Line editor and critic Edward Douglas was even more enthusiastic. “I don’t see any possible scenario where #WestSideStory doesn’t win Best Picture (again),” he wrote. “Anyone who thinks otherwise is delusional. The Mouse House has a winner and they know it.”

Based on the original 1957 musical, which was adapted into the 1961 film, Spielberg’s “West Side Story” stars newcomer Rachel Zegler as Maria and Ansel Elgort as Tony, two star-crossed lovers whose lives are forever altered on the streets of the Upper West Side in 1950s New York. Zegler and Elgort are joined by a large ensemble cast, including Ariana DeBose and David Alvarez as Anita and Bernardo, respectively, iconic roles that won original stars Rita Moreno and George Chakiris Oscars in the supporting actor categories.

Moreno, an executive producer on the Spielberg film, returned for the new version of “West Side Story,” playing the owner of the local drug store, a key location in the film. The legendary actress, who is now 90, received strong praise from the initial screenings and nascent awards buzz as well.

“Rita Moreno just might be in that Oscar race with her,” The Daily Beast senior entertainment reporter Kevin Fallon wrote.

“Rita Moreno might be the first actor to win for a new role in a remake of the film that won her first Oscar. West Side Story reminds you why she’s a legend,” added Variety deputy awards and features editor Jenelle Riley.

“West Side Story” is out in theaters on December 10. Check out reactions from the film’s debut screenings below.



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