What movie is the song i feel pretty from

What movie is the song i feel pretty from

How do you solve a problem like Maria’s “I feel pretty” number from “West Side Story”? Stephen Sondheim, who wrote the lyrics for the musical, lamented her playful pun shortly after the song was included on the show.

At the time, Sondheim, a prodigy in his 20s, was still a Broadway freshman. He saw himself as a composer and lyricist and was initially reluctant to provide lyrics for Leonard Bernstein’s music. But the prospect of collaborating with a heavyweight creative team, which also included book writer Arthur Laurents and director/choreographer Jerome Robbins, was an opportunity that Sondheim’s mentor, Oscar Hammerstein II, He told him that he should not let him pass.

In “Finishing the Hat,” the first of his two-volume set of collected lyrics and accompanying commentary, Sondheim recounted how he came to see the flaw in “I Feel Cute.” After hearing the song before the musical’s out-of-town tryout, “Fiddler on the Roof” lyricist Sheldon Harnick pointed out to Sondheim that a line like “It’s alarming how lovely I feel” didn’t seem right for a young girl. Puerto Rican who still struggles with her English. He also pointed out that the phrase “an advanced state of shock” sounds forced coming from Maria’s friends.

sondheim agreed: “I had been aware of this myself, and that the pun on ‘pretty wonderful boy’ drew attention to the lyric writer rather than the character, but I hoped no one would notice anything else that the intelligence. of that was wrong. in an advanced state of shock, i quickly rewrote the lyrics to make them simpler and more in line with the way maria and the girls expressed themselves in the rest of the score, but my collaborators did not accept none of that, they liked the way it was. and it is. i’ve been blushing ever since.”

Not all contributors were satisfied. Arthur Laurents, who never pulled any punches when he was alive, delivered his stinging verdict on the song in his memoir “Original Story”: “‘I Feel Pretty’ was the prototype of Hammerstein and a puzzle. Hardly what a Puerto Rican girl would sing.” , out of the style of the show, but the audience loved it. they still do it and it still doesn’t belong on the show.”

The very question of what seems appropriate or not for María and the other Puerto Rican characters is itself a matter of controversy. “West Side Story,” a 1957 Broadway classic created by four white Jewish men who were artistic pioneers, has been criticized for racial stereotyping. For those who have felt demeaned by the portrayal of Latino culture in a play that transforms Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” into a musical tale of street gangs at war in New York City, the problem with “I feel pretty” it goes beyond verbal frivolity.

In the most recent Broadway revival of “West Side Story,” Ivo Van Hove’s kinetic multimedia production that was forced to close early last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the number was reduced. After years of expressing self-doubt about “I feel pretty”, Sondheim pretended that he was heartbroken by the elimination.

but as he explained to “60 minutes” correspondent bill whitaker, he was just kidding. the song’s diction still bothered him, but he too recognized a dramatic problem that had become more noticeable in a stripped-down production performed without interruption.

In the original musical, “I feel pretty” was written to be sung at the beginning of the second act. the first act ends with the crash between the jets and the sharks that leaves two gang leaders dead. When the second act curtain rises, Maria is at home with her friends, unaware that her beloved Tony has killed her brother, Bernardo, after Bernardo killed Tony’s best friend, Riff. p>

sondheim explained to whitaker that the number, charming as it is, interrupts the dramatic momentum. the audience, he said, wants to get back into the story, and “if you say ‘I feel pretty,’ you have to wait five to seven minutes” before that happens.

in the 1961 film directed by robbins and robert wise, the song takes place before the fight. She has also moved from Maria’s bedroom to the bridal shop, where she and Anita, Bernardo’s girlfriend, work. the irony of the song is replaced by a giddy romanticism. Maria’s friends still don’t know the identity of her love. but the enthusiastic musical flight of a wit is not obscured by the audience’s knowledge that two young men have just been needlessly murdered. Rather than sing in the wake of a tragedy she has yet to discover, Natalie Wood’s Maria simply revels in the ecstasy of her love before her taunting friends.

A much-loved tune, “I feel pretty” has never been lacking for champions. Carol Lawrence, who originated the role of Maria on Broadway, said she “loved the number,” even though it was Robbins’ “least favorite” on the show, because to him “it was about the stupid behavior of a young woman in love.” “. .” Aside from Bernstein’s “beautiful music,” he said, “it was a wonderful and fun time” in a show that isn’t full of light-hearted scenes.

In her book “Something’s Coming, Something Good: ‘The West Side Story’ and the American Imagination,” theater critic Misha Berson mounts a two-pronged defense of “I Feel Pretty.” Bernstein’s tune, she writes, is “smack dab in the Broadway zone, with a Rodgers and Hammerstein hum of ‘I’m in love with a wonderful boy’.” As for the lyrics, what appears “is not Maria’s exaggerated vocabulary, but her playful and candid delight and the ear-pleasing sparkle and pop of the rhymes…”

up to this point, my favorite rendition of “i feel pretty” was elaine stritch’s scathing rendition, which i saw her perform in her 80s at cafe carlyle in new york a few years before she died. But I was very impressed with the way the acclaimed new film version of Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story” cracked the song’s dramatic code with clever recontextualization.

Scripted by tony kushner, the scene takes place in gimbels department store, where maria and her friends are part of the nightly cleaning crew. Dressed in pink smocks, they frolic among the coat racks, brandishing dusters and brooms. maria is dizzyingly in love but she also spins in the consumerist spell of an america that has relegated her to a custodial role.

maria tries on a scarf that is too expensive for her meager salary. the dazzle of the floor displays inspires her to adopt an air of debutante frivolity. Sondheim’s brilliant lyrics, which some find incongruously Cole Porter-ish, are motivated by the pomp of retail seduction.

spielberg’s film is braver than its predecessor. authenticity is a difficult concept to apply to a work in which new york gangsters walk like a ballet through the streets of manhattan’s hectic west side. Not all attempts to increase plausibility are successful. cultural stereotypes stubbornly persist. The “West Side Story” is perhaps too much like a fable to take on all the communal weight Kushner would like to provide. but a perfect balance is achieved between realism and stylization in the reformulation of “I feel pretty”.

The limited nature of the job opportunities available to Maria (an irresistible Rachel Zegler) and her friends is plain to see. But the fantasy of musical theater doesn’t seem out of place in this get-and-spend wonderland. The choreography leads Maria and her co-workers to gaze at her reflections in backstage mirrors in an imaginative daydream that transports them to a more glamorous place.

love causes this momentary break from routine, but the double reality of maria’s marginalized life is highlighted. when tragedy greets her at the end of her shift, it all seems sadly part of the monotony of a day.

In both substance and style, “I Feel Pretty” is brilliantly composed of Kushner and Spielberg. the song had never felt so happy and heartbreakingly good. It’s comforting to think that just before his death, Sondheim was able to see his work redeemed.

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