Happy Saturday! Fifty eight years ago today, September 26, 1957 West Side Story composed by Leonard Bernstein, opened at the Winter Garden theatre on Broadway.
What I found interesting was this September 28, 2013 article in The Guardian: “West Side Story composer nearly gave up on show, letters reveal“.
“It is regularly judged one of the best musicals of all time, yet West Side Story, with its famous Leonard Bernstein score, came close to being abandoned before it reached an audience.
A new, comprehensive collection of Bernstein’s letters, most of which have never been made public before, will reveal next month that the extent of bad feeling between the composer and playwright Arthur Laurents put the whole production in serious jeopardy.
The correspondence, to be published by Yale University Press and edited by British musicologist Nigel Simeone, contains a 1949 letter from Laurents to Bernstein that clearly refers to a recent threat by the composer to pull out of the project. “I’m sorry you’ve decided not to do the show,” writes Laurents, who goes on to observe that “hostility had popped up” between them.”
“The Leonard Bernstein Letters”
There is this article from October 29, 2013 about The book “The Leonard Bernstein Letters” Edited by Nigel Simeone at Yale University Press.
The Library Of Congress has this YouTube “10,000 Intimate Friends: Leonard Bernstein’s Life in Letters” – it is over an hour – from March 18, 2014 with “Musicologist Nigel Simeone speaks about his new book, “The Leonard Bernstein Letters,” including 650 letters spanning Bernstein’s adolescence to the end of his life that provide a rare glimpse into the more private side of the great conductor and composer. Letters by Leonard Bernstein used by permission of The Leonard Bernstein Office Inc. Special thanks to The Leonard Bernstein Office Inc. and Yale University Press.”
West Side Story 50th Anniversary (2007)There was this West Side Story Stamp Campaign from 2007 to mark the 50th Anniversary of the premiere. That link contains a PDF letter that you can send urging the USPS to honor West Side Story with a commemorative stamp.
The Library of Congress has a very thorough Information Bulletin: “Birth of a Classic: West Side Story – Exhibition Celebrates “West Side Story” at 50″.
It includes this quote:
“It sure looks like a smash and all our experiments seem to have worked. The book works, the tragedy works, the ballets shine, the music pulses and soars… It’s all too good to be true.”
– Letter from Leonard Bernstein to his wife, Felicia (Aug. 23, 1957), regarding the Washington, D.C., debut of “West Side Story”
More on West Side Story
“For West Side Story, a reinterpretation of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet transposed onto New York’s West Side, Bernstein worked with the brilliant choreographer Jerome Robbins and the lyricist Stephen Sondheim. West Side Story tells the tale of a love affair between Tony, who is Polish American, and Maria, a Puerto Rican, set against an urban background of interracial warfare. With its gritty story and volatile dance sequences, West Side Story was the antithesis of traditional American musicals. Bernstein’s exhilarating, semi-operatic score runs throughout the play and keeps the tension and emotion high.”
On Twitter it is showing Rita Moreno has released “Somewhere” September 2015.
If you already have this on your DVD, CD, vinyl albums – you may find yourself listening to the soundtrack or watching the movie again! Here’s to our celebrating “Somehow, Some day, Somewhere!”
Attribution & Thank you to the following who are referenced today –
The Guardian: “West Side Story composer nearly gave up on show, letters reveal” September 28, 2013
“The Leonard Bernstein Letters” Edited by Nigel Simeone at Yale University Press October 29, 2013
YouTube The Library Of Congress “10,000 Intimate Friends: Leonard Bernstein’s Life in Letters”
Library of Congress Information Bulletin: “Birth of a Classic: West Side Story – Exhibition Celebrates “West Side Story” at 50″. September 2007
Rita Moreno “Somewhere” September 2015