Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Archive for West Side Story

Dr. Bob Prescribes: Symphonic Dances from West Side Story

I am going to say it upfront; abuse me as you wish. In my humble but not entirely ill-informed opinion, West Side Story – with its story concept by William Shakespeare, “book” (play) by Arthur Laurents, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, choreography and direction by Jerome Robbins, and music by Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990) – is very likely the greatest single work of musical theater thus far created in the United States. The story line, which deals with the confrontation of Hispanic and Anglo cultures on the streets of Manhattan, is as relevant today as it was when it opened at Broadway’s Winter Garden Theater on September 26, 1957. The story, play, lyrics and choreography of West Side Story are wonderful, but it is Bernstein’s remarkable music – jazzy and urban for the Anglos, characteristically Caribbean for the Puerto Ricans, and out-of-the-world heavenly for the lovers (Romeo and Juliet re-conceived as Tony and Maria) – that renders West Side Story the sublime masterwork that it is. Bernstein was, by any measure, a superb composer, someone who was equally comfortable composing for the musical theater, the opera theater, the ballet theater, and the concert hall. He also composed what is, to my mind, […]

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