A look back at NYC filming locations for West Side Story (2021)

I saw the new 2021 remake of West Side Story last week, and it made me think of when they were shooting some exterior scenes in Harlem. This was in the “before times” – before COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions -in the summer of 2019, July 13 and 14th. It was hot when they were shooting “America,” with temperatures in the 90’s. They had (I believe) wrapped that scene earlier on July 14th, and it was shot on St. Nicholas Avenue between 111th and 113th. As with most shots on location, when not actively filming, you are free to be in the area and look at exterior sets and equipment.

Old-fashioned telephone booth.
Partially covered set pieces; vintage magazine rack.
Gorgeous old cars!
How they get those fantastic shots zooming up over the dancers!
So difficult to shoot on location, but the result is worth it!

On E. 131st between Fifth and Lenox, there was signage about demolishing buildings to make way for Lincoln Center:

The film was enjoyable on so many levels, one of which being seeing so many Broadway stars on the big screen. Ariana DeBose (“Anita”), from the original company of Hamilton and on to A Bronx Tale and Summer; Mike Faist (“Riff”), from the original cast of Newsies to Dear Evan Hansen; even Brian d’Arcy James (“Officer Krupke” – unfortunately not a singing and dancing role!). with a long resume including Next to Normal, Shrek the Musical, Something Rotten!, and Hamilton. Sentimentally, my favorite was David Alvarez (“Bernardo”), who won a Tony Award in 2009 as one of the three original “Billys” in Billy Eliott the Musical. I remember taking my daughters, who were a little younger, to meet and have things signed by the three young men. It’s fantastic to see him giving such a vivid performance now as a grown man on the big screen.

Looking back on these photos, two-and-a-half years ago but feeling like much longer, it’s clear that the 2021 release of West Side Story involves not only time travel back to the time of the show but also to the time of the filming. Even now, with the film in theaters only, not everyone feels safe seeing it on the big screen with vaccines giving protection but a new variant of COVID-19 running rampant. When you can see this version of West Side Story, however, I do recommend you check it out as I greatly enjoyed it.

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