Banter Bites

When A Musical Is More Than Music

Who knew that the woman that sang so passionately and danced so spectacularly would be even more impressive in “real life”?

BANTER BITE BACKSTORY: West Side Story. These three words magically wrap us in its music and bring back memories of how much we love the original movie, although when we think of Rita Moreno, the amazing actress who gained instant fame from her performance as Anita, we have very different perspectives.

Although it would be well over a decade before Red became a Theater major at Wake Forest University, her love of musicals and theater started when she was growing up on Long Island, New York, about an hour from where “West Side Story” takes place on the Upper West Side of New York City. As she vividly remembers,

It was the bright red album cover that first got my attention, and Daddy used to play it. A LOT. Which made sense, as Leonard Bernstein’s score and Stephen Sondheim’s lyrics are fantastic. Of course, when the movie was eventually aired on TV (1972), it was amazing, not only for Jerome Robbin’s incredible choreography but Rita Moreno’s portrayal of Anita. I can’t imagine there ever being a better film version, but that won’t stop me from seeing the just-released Steven Spielberg remake, especially as it again stars Rita Moreno, although in a new role created specifically for her.

Of course, Black mentioned that Moreno’s also one of the executive producers of the Spielberg remake. And then explained how she had almost quit the original movie over offensive lyrics about her native Puerto Rico, but that Sondheim changed them during rehearsal, and how she (unsuccessfully) spoke out against the brownface used to darken actors’ skin,

Moreno’s life story and accomplishments are even more fascinating and inspiring than her performances, and her spirit, perseverance, and unwillingness to accept conventional restraints (not to mention her spunk at the age of almost 90) show you that this is a woman who not only went for it, but made it. Forget high kicks – she kicked ass!

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