Thank you so much to everyone that joined us for Westside Story with Wine on Sunday.
Read on for details on all the wines from the evening, our gallery of photos, and Westside Story trivia.
As promised, these are our Wines of the America's
'We like the wines from Americas, we like the wines from Americas!'
Wine 1 - Miolo Cuvée Tradition Brut NV, Campanha, Brazil – £12.99 online
Traditional method sparkling from the Valley of the Vineyards in Brazil. This attractive fizz shows rich, toasty biscuity notes with plenty of tropical fruit, good weight, creamy texture and a long fresh finish.
Wine 2 – Novas Stellar Selection Riesling, Emiliana, Bio Bio, Chile - £11.45 online
Expressive Chilean Riesling from Chile's most important producer in the cool Bio Bio region. Fresh lime and honeysuckle notes on the nose. The palate is off-dry with persistent flavours of lime, and tropical fruit.
Wine 3 – Nettie Viognier, California, USA - Majestic £11.99 (or £9.99 as part of a mixed case of six)
California’s Viogniers fly a bit under-the-radar but this is a fantastic example and wonderful value for the price. It’s big. It’s lush. It’s fruity. Full of peach and apricot flavours, with a really rich, round texture.
Wine 4 – Casa Grande Tannat, Uruguay - Wines of Uruguay - £9.99 online
Much like Malbec in Argentina, this grape from South Western France really comes into its own when planted in South America, especially Uruguay where it is now established as their national grape. The boutique winery Casa Grande have created a wonderful example with aromas of plum, sultanas and spice with a luscious palate.
Wine 5 – Ataland Cabernet Sauvignon by Catena, Salta, Argentina - Majestic £9.99 (or £13.99 as part of a mixed case of six)
How can we host a tasting of wines from the Americas without heading to Argentina? We didn't but we did avoid the legendary Malbec by opening a Cabernet Sauvignon from Argentina's most lauded producer, Catena. This high altitude wine from the Southern region of Salta offers aromas and flavours of black cherry, blackcurrant, blackcurrant leaf, chocolate and eucalyptus.
Westside Gallery .. 'Mariaaaaa'
Some highlights from last night's trivia ...
According to a behind-the-scenes featurette of the film, Steven Spielberg explained why he always wanted to direct a motion picture adaptation of the original 1957 Broadway musical production: "I have been challenged by what would be the right musical to take on. And I could never forget my childhood. I was 10 years old when I first listened to the West Side Story album, and it never went away. I've been able to fulfill that dream and keep that promise that I made to myself: You must make West Side Story." He, then, went on to explain why the musical is even more topical in modern times than it was when the musical first premiered on Broadway: "Divisions between un-likeminded people is as old as time itself," Spielberg said. "And the divisions between the Sharks and the Jets in 1957, which inspired the musical, were profound. But not as divided as we find ourselves today. It turned out in the middle of the development of the script, things widened, which I think in a sense, sadly, made the story of those racial divides - not just territorial divides - more relevant to today's audience than perhaps it even was in 1957."
It's been announced that there will be no English subtitles when the characters are talking in Spanish. Regarding this decision, Spielberg explained that this was done "out of respect for the inclusivity of our intentions to hire a totally Latinx cast to play the Sharks' boys and girls ... If I subtitled the Spanish I'd simply be doubling down on the English and giving English the power over the Spanish. This was not going to happen in this film, I needed to respect the language enough not to subtitle it." Spielberg has also previously been on the record disliking subtitles, believing them to be distracting, and generally avoiding the use of them in his films.
Director of Photography, Janusz Kaminski, went to great lengths to replicate, as closely as possible, the lighting and visual style of the original 1961 film, as photographed by its Oscar-winning cinematographer Daniel L. Fapp A.S.C.
Considering the relatively large 60-year time span between the original and this production, three actors who appeared in the 1961 release reprise different roles in this 2021 production, including, Rita Moreno, Harvey Evans and David Bean. Evans and Bean were both members of "The Jets" in the original, respectively playing Mouthpiece and Tiger. Evans passed away two weeks after this film's release.
When casting this remake, Steven Spielberg insisted that all Latino characters be portrayed by real Latino actors, while in the 1961 version, most of the Puerto Rican characters are played by white actors.
Contrasting with most modern movie musicals, almost the entirety of the cast is made up of musical theatre performers unknown to mainstream film audiences. Rita Moreno is the most famous among the lead cast, being an EGOT winner. Except for Ansel Elgort (who became famous through non-musical films), Rachel Zegler (who got cast straight out of high school), and Corey Stoll (who's worked primarily on TV with a few supporting film roles), all of the principals are Broadway alums.
Steven Spielberg offered Rita Moreno a chance to be in the new WSS. Thinking it was a cameo, she declined -- until she learned she would be playing a supporting role, that of "Valentina," a newly imagined character, the widow of the drugstore owner, "Doc," in the original version.
While she has played Maria in plenty of stage productions of "West Side Story", this is Rachel Zegler's first film role. Steven Spielberg credits her as the greatest Maria he's ever witnessed. Rachel Zegler was told she beat out some staggering 30 thousand other casting hopefuls for her role.
Rachel Zegler had never acted in any professional capacity before she won the role of Maria in the open casting call. Even before the film was released, the word getting out that Spielberg cast her as a lead was apparently enough for her to land important roles in the sequel to Shazam! (2019) - Shazam! Fury of the Gods (2023) - and the live-action remake of Snow White (2025).
According to Rachel Zegler, Spielberg instructed her to have "less fun dancing with Chino" because "Tony wouldn't stand a chance with you smiling like that."
In interviews Rachel Zegler recalls that when she received the role of Maria she was about to begin rehearsals for her final school musical which was Shrek: The Musical. She asked Steven Spielberg if she could still do the show despite being cast in the movie to which he replied, "I produced the original Shrek, of course you can do Shrek". Coincidently this film also features Brian d'Arcy James (Officer Krupke) who originated the role of Shrek on Broadway.
When Ansel Elgort went to audition for Steven Spielberg, Elgort did not inform anyone he was feeling sick at the time. After Spielberg learned of this, he invited Elgort back to retest for Tony, which he immediately got.
Ansel Elgort did his own climbing for the balcony scene. He tried to convince the production to not give him a safety harness, but was ultimately overruled.
When Tony is singing "Maria" outside the tenement, in the background is graffiti on a wall behind him that says "Chita." This is a nod to Chita Rivera, the original Anita on Broadway.
Mike Faist originally auditioned for Tony, before he was asked to read for the role of Riff instead, which he ultimately landed. The same thing happened with Russ Tamblyn in the 1961 film.
Mike Faist's portrayal of Riff has been singled out as a highlight by many fans and critics with much praise going to how he captures Riff's dangerous side and volatility but also his vulnerability and charisma, even earning praise from former Riff actor Russ Tamblyn.
To establish a strong bond among the Jet actors, Mike Faist took it upon himself to schedule what he called "Jet-tivities", where each member took their turn picking a social activity that all of them were required to participate in. And while they didn't take it to the extremes the 1961 film actors did, they also did a few things to heighten the tension between them and the Shark actors, such as competing against them in a LARP battle and upstaging them by buying roses for all of the female cast members.
The remake has several former Billy Elliots in the cast. They are veterans of both the Broadway production and the national tour. David Alvarez (Bernardo) is one of the original Broadway, Tony Award winning Billys. Ben Cook (Mouthpiece) played Tall Boy on Broadway, and went on to play Billy in the US National Tour. Julian Elia (Tiger), and Myles Erlick (Snowboy) were both replacement Billys on Broadway. Daniel Patrick Russell (Jet) played Billy in Melbourne Australia, and in the US National Tour.
Released posthumously after lyricist Stephen Sondheim died on November 26, 2021, days before the world premiere. He did, however, get to see the final cut of the film and prefers this film to the 1961 film, as he told Stephen Colbert on the latter's late-night talk show.
West Side Story is based on "Romeo and Juliet" by William Shakespeare. It is a loose adaptation, but this version contains a direct reference not in previous versions. In the famous "balcony scene" (portrayed on the fire escape), Maria calls Tony back and then says, "I forgot why I called you." Tony responds, "I'll wait till you remember." This is a direct reference to the Shakespeare play where Juliet calls Romeo, and then says, "I have forgot why I did call thee back." Romeo responds, "Let me stay here till thou remember it."
Because Rita Moreno also won an Oscar for playing Anita in the original film and Ariana DeBose won for playing Anita in this film, this is the third time that sets of actors have won Oscars for playing the same character in separate movies. The other instances were Marlon Brando and Robert DeNiro for playing Vito Corleone in The Godfather and The Godfather Part II, respectively, and Heath Ledger and Joaquin Phoenix for playing the Joker in The Dark Knight and Joker, respectively.
Rita Moreno claimed that her most difficult scene was when Valentina (Doc - Ned Glass - in the 1961 film) saves Anita from being assaulted in the candy store, due to having originally played the same scene as Anita and responded same dialogue from Valentina/Doc. It was only with greatest difficulty that Moreno was able to stay in character as Valentina and not flub the take out of disassociation.
The film has received rapturous acclaim from both critics and audiences alike, receiving boatloads of awards nominations, with many stating in some ways it might even be superior to Robert Wise's/Jerome Robbins' hallowed, Oscar sweeping, pop culture landmark '61 adaptation. This did not, however, translate to success at the box office, as in its first weekend it grossed a little over $10 million, against a $100 million budget. The heavily-anticipated Spider-Man: No Way Home coming out a week later, combined with the increasing spread of the COVID-19 Omicron variant, would hamper its performance even further.
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Tony and the Wine Events Co Crew