Arthur Laurents talks WEST SIDE STORY
I think the point is that the choice itself complicates the show and that the manner in which the choice complicates the show is fundamental to what the choice adds to the show. I do think, however, that the decision to dispense with the surtitles was a fatal error for exploring what the translation, which is incidentally not a technique used to modernise the play as it does not shift the setting, because it left people grappling with the meaning of the songs instead of with the journey behind the shifts in language that the Spanish material communicates. I think it would be an excellent technique to explore in a film version of the show, where subtitles can be more easily integrated into the mise en scène
than surtitles can be in the theatre.
I think there are enough problems with the film - the casting of Tony perhaps being the most prominent, along with the over-eager efforts of the studio to dub almost everyone in the cast - to counter that argument. However, I do think that the film largely solves a few (but not all) of the problems with the show's devised slang and it is interesting to see the material re-structured to suit a medium of film, though I personally remain unconvinced that a similar re-structuring would work in the stage production even if there are others who would advocate such an approach.
I must admit that I am beginning to wonder if there will ever be a cast that will top the ensemble of the original production. I don't think the film cast measures up to them and, although I enjoy many of the actors in the revival, I don't think they are quite as effective as an ensemble - though I think they come close and managed to produce a cast recording that really is only second to the OBCR.