17 August 2013

West Side Story

West Side Story has been one of my favourite all time movies since I was a little girl. I've probably seen it around fifty times. Even from the age of eight I remember being dazzled by the beauty, colour and energy of the film. The choreography is spectacular and the soundtrack I must own in every format available. 

Such was my obsession that the film was incorporated onto my hen party back in 2010

The storyline is based on Romeo and Juliet, renewed to 1960's upper West Side Manhattan. There are the star-crossed lovers, Tony and Maria, propounded against the background of rival American and Puerto Rican gangs (representing the Montagues and the Capulets). Along with the romance is an abundance of tension and drama - not the sickly sweet story that I tend to associate with musicals. Natalie Wood's acting during the emotional finale is an ultimate tearjerker and gets me every time.

And here's a fact that rather upsets me - my hero could have been in my favourite movie!

"Elvis Presley was originally approached for Tony. However, his manager, Colonel Tom Parker, strongly believed the role to be wrong for Elvis and made him decline in favour of other movie musicals. According to legend, the Colonel didn't want Elvis associated with gang warfare and knife crime, although three years earlier, Elvis' character Danny Fisher stabbed and killed the small-time gangster 'Shark' played by Vic Morrow in the movie King Creole. When the movie became a hit and earned 10 Oscars, Elvis later regretted having given up the part."

If you haven't seen the film, perhaps give these clips a watch to get an idea of what I'm talking about...

The movie was adapted from the original stage show. I heard that Sadler's Wells were bringing back the show back for a second season (it was a sell-out back in 2008...when I also saw it!). Of course I had to go and I invited my Mum along too.

Outfit of choice: Zara white jacket, River Island trousers (as recently seen on Lauren Pope, regrettably) and Asos black vest.

I tend not to make a habit of covering chain restaurants on my blog but I've made an exception for Jamie's Italian. We visited the Islington branch for a pre-theatre meal. I don't know whether they're all the same but this one has such a friendly and buzzy atmosphere and even at 5.30pm it was pretty busy. By the time we left, it was packed.

The menu is massive. We were quiet for a good ten minutes whilst we decided what we fancied.

We ordered the Italian breads in the meantime

I really like gnocchi. I make it myself at home and tend to drench it in a gorgonzola cheese sauce. At Jamie's Italian, the gnocchi itself was three-cheese and was served with an arrabiata sauce. 

I was really impressed. The gnocchi was fried rather than boiled in water which gave it an unusually crunchy texture. It was a good portion size too - gnocchi tends to be very filling.

Here's Mum!

For main course, we both decided to go for the Jamie's Italian Burger.

I had the tasty crispy fried polenta chips with mine. 

There's something about photographing a big burger in a bun that's really rather enjoyable

Not bad, eh? Despite the photo opportunity, there was a little too much packed in there for me...it's all about the meat  for me. After I'd removed the top bun, the bacon (I don't really like bacon) and half the lettuce, it was a very tasty business. Alright, we didn't get a choice of how the burger was cooked and I'd have preferred it a little more rare but we both enjoyed our main very much.

And I still had room for dessert. I chose the warm chocolate brownie with amaretto ice cream and caramelised popcorn.

It's not often I big myself up so brazenly but I have to be honest, I make the best brownies I've ever had. Fact. But this one wasn't bad at all! Most importantly it was moist and intensely chocolaty. I wasn't sure about the slightly bitter popcorn but the ice cream was a pleasing accompaniment.

All in all, pretty impressive. It feels like the food really has been cooked with love and care rather than churned out as it often can feel like it has at popular chain restaurants.

It was a short walk round the corner to Sadler's Wells.

For me, it was always going to be tough to ever get close to being as good as the movie but they gave a good bash at it. The Jerome Robbins choreography remained the same; lithe, acrobatic and sexy. Fascinating to watch. The orchestra were fabulous too, playing the soundtrack exactly as we remembered it.

Photo not courtesy of me!
I'm a little bit precious about the movie version so the I find the differences in the stage show a little hard to accept - certain songs were sung at different points in the story, the random ballet scene during Somewhere (a classic moment in the film) was cringy and the actor who played Tony....what can I say? He wasn't quite the Romeo figure I was hoping for! But no-one could deny his voice was, along with those of the other cast members, terrific. The cast didn't manage to muster the emotion from me during the big dramatic finale that the film does but that kind of made the movie even more special to me.

Another fact about the movie - the actors who played lovers Tony and Maria hated each other in real life.

Now if you'll excuse me, I must go and find the DVD...

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  1. Oh. My. God.
    That burger.... Give it to me, pretty please.
    It looks incredible!!!
    I've always wanted to visit Jamie's Italian as everyone in Leeds raves about it, think I might just have to after this post!
    Glad to see you love West Side story too, it gets me crying ever time!
    Emily xx
    My Ginger Bread Journey

  2. Absolutely love the movie and have been thinking about going to the show. May just stick to the DVD version now though.

    Sam x

  3. Mummy Caz!!! She's adorable! I haven't seen the film in years... must find it somewhere and watch it!

    Katie <3


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