It's impossible to fully recreate the original impression created by a sensational work of art. We read the stories of the riot that broke out at the premiere of Stravinsky's Le Sacre du Printemps, but the separation of time divorces us from re-experiencing the full visceral impact of that event.
Leonard Bernstein's musical West Side Story was the sensation that demarcated the turning point of the 20th Century. Written at the crest of the Eisenhower fifties, with its overlay of "normalcy" in the clean suburban homes and the deceptive whitebread wholesomeness of the post-war boom, West Side Story, violent, raw and tragic, presaged the coming of the darker, splintering, disintegrating time to come.
You have an opportunity, but only through Thursday, January 1st, to revisit the excitement that the film version of West Side Story created in 1961, with a rare showing of a new 70mm print at Chicago's Music Box Theater.
Read all about the work, its troubled creation and how it holds up today, with pictures, here.
Caution!!!! - Reader Mike Doyle reports in a comment to this article that he left a later screening at the Music Box because of repeated projector breakdowns. This still may be your last chance to see West Side Story in 70mm, but if you're going to go, you may want to call the Music Box first to make sure they'e resolved their projector problems for this run.