July 9th, 2014

wss cool by dallowayward

(no subject)

West Side Story: musicals we love
With Bernstein's complex score, Sondheim's witty lyrics and Robbins's exuberant dance sequences, this show is near perfect

Miriam Gillinson

When asked to defend musical theatre – and this happens annoyingly often – I always return to one show: West Side Story. For every criticism levelled at the genre, West Side Story has the answer. There is Leonard Bernstein's rich score, Stephen Sondheim's vibrant lyrics and Jerome Robbins's exuberant choreography. For me, it is a nigh-on perfect musical – and a matchless piece of theatre.

Strip everything else away – the thrilling dancing, imposing set and powerful plot, inspired by Romeo and Juliet – and West Side Story remains a brilliant musical composition. Bernstein was a classical musician first, a composer of musicals second. One of the songs in West Side Story – One Hand, One Heart – was originally intended for his operetta Candide. Such a complex score demands brilliant musicians, which means star casting is simply not an option. The two romantic leads, Tony and Maria (Tony is a member of a New York street gang and Maria comes from a community of Puerto Rican immigrants), are hugely challenging roles. Tony covers nearly two octaves; Maria soars up to an ear-splitting top C. Only the seriously musically talented need apply.
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