Saturday, April 24, 2010

Cool

One of my theme park actor friends and I were sitting around backstage one day talking about our past. When he learned that I had a musical theater background, he said to me, "You know, I have a lot of respect for the talent required to perform in musicals, but I have to confess, I don't GET them!"  He proceeded to explain his frustration when the plot would be moving along very nicely, then, BAM, in would pop this musical number that stopped the whole forward movement of the story.

I laughed, told him I understood, then asked him to rent "West Side Story."  I explained that if a musical was done right, the story takes the characters to such an emotional climax, words are no longer adequate to express what they're feeling. They must sing or dance.  I don't think this is displayed any better than in West Side Story.

I've chosen this clip today from a number from WSS called "Cool."  The two gangs, the Jets and the Sharks, have just "rumbled," with the result being the deaths of both gangs' leaders, Bernardo and Riff.  This clearly was not the outcome both sides expected, and they all run away when the police sirens start blaring.  They find refuge in this parking garage. They're scared, shocked over the death of their leader, incredibly frustrated, and very, very mad.  The new leader, Iceman, tries to calm everyone down with this song.

There are no stars in this piece, only chorus people.  The choreography may be a bit dated, but I can assure you it's tremendously difficult.  I think Jerome Robbins, the choreographer, did a fantastic job capturing the inner turmoil going on in these characters, and their struggle to keep it under control.

It's really long, but I hope you'll skip around in this number and enjoy the artistry of it.   I think my favorite part may be at the very end, around 4:30, when they all stand completely still for a few full seconds, and Iceman simply says, "Okay.  Let's go."

See what you think...

36 comments:

Kaloula said...

I must admit, I've always thought the same as your actor friend! But also that's never stopped me from watching a musical either. I've never seen West Side Story but I will have to rent it!

Sylvia K said...

Fantastic! And one of my all time favorites! Fun to see that particular part again. Thanks, Joan! Hope you have a great weekend!

Sylvia

Derrick said...

Hi and thanks for visiting again. My father used to find it strange, when songs interrupted the action. Today's musicals, particularly by Sondheim (or Lloyd Webber), being sung through give a very different impression. But WSS definitely created a new genre.

just call me jo said...

Takes me back to high school (means I'm OLD. Just loved WSS. It's a classic. How can people not love a GOOD musical!

Cheeseboy said...

I like all the snapping. Whenever one of my buddies would get angry, we'd all start snapping.

KathyB said...

Great stuff! Don't want to think that any of that stuff could ever be called "dated" - just pure CLASSIC. :D

Brenda Susan said...

Thanks for posting that, it's wonderful! I think I like musicals because the songs & dance give you a chance to absorb the story more & really look at the clothes etc.

Julie said...

Another wonderful post! I LOVE musicals--sometimes the songs ARE awkwardly placed, but I loved them anyway...You're right about WSS--the songs are very powerful. Thanks for this today--don't think I've ever introduced this one to my daughters, and I need to do that.

Hope you're having a wonderful weekend!

Eva Gallant said...

One of my favorites! Who could forget "Maria?"

Writing Without Periods! said...

I love that movie. Thanks for the post.
Mary

magically ordinary said...

You picked a good one! I have not seen West Side Story in forever. I am going to spend the rest of the day singing "I feel pretty"!

Lisalulu said...

excellent, I too am a Musical Theater major (junkie, affectionate, wannabe, director, hasbeen) and really enjoyed your explination. My new husband has NO IDEA what musicals are supposed to be?? (except for boring and ridiculous) oh I enjoy a good musical!!! THANK YOU FOR THAT CLIP--- I think everyone's life would be a little bit better if it were a musical!

TS Hendrik said...

Musicals can be a bit silly but I love them. Nothing quite like a good musical. Love West Side Story.

Diana (Diane) Maria said...

I think the only reason I liked WSS is that I share the same name as one of the characters. I didn't even know this clip exists. The snapping is catchy and it has the same effect on me as the does the whistling in the opening of the Andy Griffith show. Perhaps it's because I can neither snap nor whistle. Now I'm going to rent WSS. This time I won't miss a beat. This is my first visit to this blog. I'll be back.

Looking for Blue Sky said...

This still looks good! I love musicals, but I think they're even more fun when you're on the stage...

christy rose said...

I saw West Side Story on tv when I was a young girl. I was captivated then and I still am.

Bossy Betty said...

I actually live my life as one long musical theater production. I have no problem bursting into song at any moment, about any topic.

Loved West Side story! Loved it!

ReformingGeek said...

I love musicals, too. It's wonderful getting lost in the story and the songs.

I like your point that the music should carry the story forward.

Gucci Mama said...

I absolutely LOVE West Side Story. I am baffled that people exist who don't like musicals! ;)

Banjoan said...

Love West Side Story- I just caught the end of it the other night. I've been a fan of Russ Tamblyn for years. Mom and I used to watch Seven Brides for Seven Brothers- I doubt you could sell a tribe of singing woodsman kidnapping and wooing young women in our politically correct times. Too bad about that.

Dr Zibbs said...

haha. I love that clip.

Mariel Torres said...

this is indeed a fantastic musical :)

[Rhiannon][Wretchdz] said...

My best friend adores musicals and I am slowly getting into them. I love watching people dance and sing because it makes me wish I could do it and causes some reaction where I want to jump up and down.

Feeling Just Right said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Feeling Just Right said...

Okay Joan, i swear i watched it only because you said to. Iceman scared me like crazy with his look right at the start.

Danielle said...

You know, I do enjoy the odd musical, but the one time I sat down to watch West Side Story I got so bored I gave up!! I'm well aware that to a lot of people out there that's practically blasphemous!! ha ha!

Robin said...

Wow this gave me goose bumps..I loooove musical theatre...and so do my kids..they were not involved in it as much as loving going to Broadway..sometimes I would not pay bills so I could take them to a show...Lol...I dont see any incongruence between musical theatre and the acting..I think it all flows so wonderfully..I saw Jersey Boys last month and it was awesome..it was the first in a few years..my kids are a bit older now...we saw Rent front row...3x and we used to act out the whole script..I was Mimi and my daughter was Roger...sooo funny..Lol...Hey thanks for following..I am too..!

Just Me said...

I really truly have always loved musicals. I remember staying up late watching South Pacific and Oklahoma when I was little. Musicals are among my favorites, I like random song in the middle ... it expresses the right emotions..we all need a little random song in our lives!

RawknRobynsGoneBlogWild said...

Definitely one of the best musicals of all time, and one of my favorites too.
Cheers,
Robyn

Kat said...

I absolutely love West Side Story. I love musicals. I think it's what I love about the old movies like Gypsy. You're right. If they are done right, everything flows, the songs help tell the story and you can follow along without any trouble.

Kristin said...

Now that is one of my VERY favorite musicals. Sigh.

Lindzena said...

Amazing show - can make me cry every single time! I am addicted to those old shows!

Langdowns said...

Love it!!

Rianna said...

I did 2 out of 3 years of a music theatre degree before leaving to dance fulltime. My appreciation of musicals has changed enormously since then, though there are some I will always treasure. I find it's quite a 'like them' or 'hate them' response from people most of the time. xo

Joanie M said...

AS you know, I'm a Drama Mama and I just love musical theatre. Gina was in West Side Story when she was in college. She was one of the Puerto Rican girls. "America" is my favorite number!

Jerry said...

Just about my favorite musical of all time...along with Sound of Music. And cool is one of the great Bernstein jazz masterpieces.

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