Wes-Side, Yo

By in

I love theater, but I can’t act and I certainly can’t sing.  I didn’t participate in the theater group back in college, but I did pay my thespic dues in high school.  Whether it was a rambling Shylock in The Merchant of Venice, or a ghostly (and ghastly) narrator in a Greek gods pageant, there was no escaping the English class play.  If writing and directing the musical version of Prometheus Bound wasn’t enough, I had to play one of the vultures who ate the Titan’s liver as well.  Yet enough was enough for our West Side Story presentation: I already rewrote the script and helped direct the first acts of the play.  So I guess I can’t be blamed for having to balk on taking on the role of Lieutenant Schrank.

Yet in this age of emos and gangstas, a feud between the Jets and the Sharks with all the singing and dancing in the streets of New York would probably fizzle.  Like Glad Hand’s hosting talents, or the “soda fountains” at Doc’s store.  Heck, kids today probably wouldn’t have heard of West Side Story. This is a shame, since theater’s value is somehow taking a blow in favor of IMAX, pseudo-IMAX, and DVD reproductions.

It got me thinking about plays in general.  RENT, for example, was (among others) a modern take on Puccini’s La Boheme, although it was more that changing tuberculosis with AIDS and adding a queer element to the more modern setting.  Heck, West Side Story itself was a very modern take on (among others) Romeo and Juliet. Yet rather than make something that looks like Jim Libiran’s Tribu in a musical setting, we need to be faithful to the original Sondheim/Bernstein/Laurents collaboration, and make something Filipino out of it.

Street gangstas.  Crips and Bloods.  Wes-Side Story. No, not translated versions of “Maria” or “America,” much less doing things along “When you’re a Crip, you’re a Crip all the way.”  I’m talking musical hip-hop gangland theater… I’m sure that’s been done before, but fruits on that, here’s a crazy idea that just might work.

I think I’ll have to set aside these manuscripts for this… aw hell, I can multitask. Although I’m sure the mazakeriztas and true gangstas somewhere there would probably be interested in rapping their way to a WSS-inspired musical.

2 comments on “Wes-Side, Yo”

    • aljabr
    • August 16, 2009

    Why? Whats wrong with doing a TRIBU-like stage musical? Or more precisely, TRIBU-like or not, whats wrong with staging WSS with a hiphop-gangsta backdrop?

    This is much better than the original WSS where street thugs pirouetted gay-ly on a ballet stage.

  1. Reply

    uh, nothing? i floated the idea around, nothing’s wrong with it. i already turned “the jets song” into gangsta. 😉

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