West Side Story: 50th Anniversary World Tour is coming to KL on May 12-24. I’ve already got a ticket for the May 18 show and plane tickets to KL.

Despite my long silence on this blog, I feel the need to talk about what West Side Story and what it means to me.

Back in the early 90’s, a publishing house released something called ‘The Musicals Collection’, with West Side Story as the first issue. My dad bought it because he’s seen the 1961 film starring Natalie Wood and Richard Beymer. Eventually, I started listening to it because there was a very limited collection of music in the house and most of it belonged to my dad.

I remember behind struck with the realisation that the songs told a story when you listen to it in sequence. The catchy prologue gave way to some optimistic guy who thinks that “Something’s Coming”. Then, there was a “Dance at the Gym” where he presumingly met “Maria”.

“America” was a riot, while “I Feel Pretty” captures the dizzy stages of love. “Gee, Officer Krupke!” was my favourite at the time because they were making fun of someone in a pretty clever way.

The CD came with a magazine all about the Broadway show and the inspiration behind it. At 15, the only form of musicals I’ve ever heard of are Disney animated features and Jem & The Holograms. I didn’t know they do this shit on stage with real people. I also didn’t learn, till many years later, that a lot of the people who provided the voice and/or singing for Disney movies are Broadway actors.

For the next few years, I continued loving Disney movies until they discontinued the break-out-in-song-and-dance trend. When VCDs came along, I discovered the 1961 film in a shop somewhere and got it. I’d shoot a photo of the VCD but somebody borrowed it, along with my Beauty & The Beast 10th Anniversary edition VCD and have not given it back. You have to be content with the tape cover below that I stole from somewhere on the Internet.

In this film, I saw real people do the break-out-in-song-and-dance thingy. And I loved it. It proved to me that telling a story through dialogue, song and dance is a form of entertainment that I could understand and find more enjoyable than a regular movie.

However, it’s was a few more years before musical movies became more mainstream. There are people out there who still think musicals are weird and gay, but who cares about them. By then, I already had friends who love musicals as much as I do, and know more about them too.

In 2007, a slightly unexpected group of us started voice lessons with a trainer who is also mad about musicals.

From my entry in 43Things:

It’s the third month since I started voice lessons. I can’t think of anything that makes me happier than the memory of last week – standing next to the baby grand with Fariah and Henrick, with our voice coach Misato at the piano, and we’re singing “Tonight, tonight” from West Side Story. And laughing hard at ourselves and each other if we trip somewhere.

We all love songs from musicals. Doing this is like finally achieving something I only dreamed about when I was younger and discovered my first musical soundtrack.

I have no illusions of performing. I’m still relearning things that I remember from being a church singer, and learning other new things. I’m simply content to relax and enjoy this experience before worrying about the “next step”.

— Jul 11, 2007

I just want to point out that West Side Story was one of the last musicals we did before we ended the lessons at the end of 2009. I’m the alto and sang Anita’s role in class, which was wonderfully mocking in “America” and challenging to sing in “A Boy Like That”.

Around the time I started voice class, I decided that I must see the next musical that comes to KL. I may love em, but I’ve never seen one. At least three musicals floated by over 2008 and 2009, but I was too busy keeping my head above water at work to think about going anywhere.

I have no excuses this year. The situation at work feels like a distant bad dream. I had money and the rumoured state elections is not going to be in May. And I wasn’t gonna let the fact that I’m going alone hold me back. Not from the musical that set me on this path.

I expect I’ll be crying through the entire show from the sheer awesome of just being there.

1 Comment

  1. I think West Side Story was the first full-length musical that got me hooked. And I only watched it because I was nuts over the Leonard Whitting and Olivia Hussey’s version of Romeo and Juliet when I watched it in London. I had the biggest crush on George Chakiris who played Bernado ;)

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