The greatest love story ever told...in the most acclaimed musical of all time...on Blu-ray! Experience every sensational song, dazzling dance number and magical movie moment of West Side Story in sparkling high definition with pure 7.1 digital sound - along with fascinating special features created exclusively for this 50th Anniversary Edition! Winner of ten Academy Awardsr, including Best Picture, this electrifying musical sets the ageless tragedy of Romeo and Juliet against a backdrop of gang warfare in 1950s New York. Featuring an unforgettable score, exuberant choreography and powerful performances by Natalie Wood, Russ Tamblyn, Richard Beymer, Rita Moreno and George Chakiris,West Side Story will forever resonate as a true cinematic masterpiece.
The 50th-anniversary Blu-ray edition features a huge selection of extras on both the main disc and a separate bonus features disc. On the main disc, "Pow! The Dances of West Side Story In-Movie Viewing Mode" offers insight into seven of the film's dance sequences by a variety of contemporary directors and choreographers, as well as actors from both the film and Broadway play. The discussion ranges from why specific moves were chosen for individual dances to how extensively choreographed and rehearsed most dances were and how the dances managed to successfully integrate music, word, and dance into a powerful expression of both plot and emotion. The "Song-Specific Commentary by Stephen Sondheim" is an intriguing and candid discussion by Sondheim about how he created the lyrics for 14 distinct songs, which songs he felt were most successful, the lyrics he's most embarrassed about penning, and even an admission that, in his opinion, he was wrong to fight for the reordering of the songs "Officer Krupke" and "Cool." The 20-track "Music Machine," which allows viewers to go directly to their favorite musical numbers, is the final special feature on the main disc.
On the bonus features disc, "A Place for Us: West Side Story's Legacy" explores how incredibly groundbreaking and innovative the film was. Offering their musings are contemporary producers, directors, actors, and choreographers, among them Adam Shankman (Hairspray and Rock of Ages), Zach Woodlee (Glee), and Mikhail Baryshnikov (White Nights and Baryshnikov on Broadway), as well as Sondheim and assistant director Robert Relyea, and even composer Leonard Bernstein's daughter Jamie Bernstein. What comes through loud and clear is that West Side Story was a revolutionary film: a project in which three men from three separate disciplines came together to tell a story in a completely new way and in which the traditional boundaries between dancing, acting, and singing simply dissolved. The feature explores the emotional impact of this then-new form of storytelling and how it led the way for musicals, and later music videos, to tackle serious subject matter. It also looks at the global reach of the film, gives a nod to the many modern films and television programs that have paid homage to the film over the years, and explains how the musical inspired the West Side Story Project, in which police and theaters in places like Seattle join forces to facilitate open conversation and interaction among gang members, police, and local theaters. The 56-minute "West Side Memories" features director and coproducer Robert Wise, playwright Arthur Laurents, lyricist Sondheim, executive producer Walter Mirisch, various other cast and crew members, and even the voice of Jerome Robbins, thanks to a recording of a 1960 interview. They expound on everything, from the unique form of this musical to the genius of Leonard Bernstein and his uncanny way of combining popular music with Cuban and jazz influences, as well as aspects of classical music. They also touch on the complex choreography of Robbins and the intense relationship he had with the dancers, and Sondheim's uncanny ability to tailor a song to a specific role and to function as an extension of the author. There's discussion about how different the characters of Maria, Anita, Tony, and Riff are and how markedly the demands of playing each role differ, as well as an interesting and very frank conversation about Saul Chaplin's insistence on dubbing many of the singing voices. Other special features include a storyboard-to-film comparison montage and four trailers: original theatrical, original issue, reissue, and animated. --Tami Horiuchi