Here's Rita's :
I hadn't hear the score of "West Side Story" performed live for more than fifty years - the last time being when I was on the Goldwyn Studios soundstage to pre-record my numbers for the movie. As I headed into Davies Symphony Hall I was filled with excitement and anticipation - I would get to hear the first-ever live concert performance of the original Broadway score.
From the first note...I moved to the edge of my seat, with every nerve ending prepared to receive this astonishing musical assault of notes, chords, and complex rhythms, held together by the sinew of one man's genius. For me, the fiery passion, wit, yearning, dissonance, intensity, joy and sharp angles of this work-for-the-ages were all present and fresh again. Thank you Maestro Michael Tilson Thomas, the San Francisco Symphony, and a superb ensemble. .
Symphony, Moreno feel pretty good about 'West Side Story' CD
"Hello, I'm Chita Rivera," EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony) winner Rita Moreno cracked when introduced at the release party of the San Francisco Symphony's new live recording of "West Side Story."
Moreno, who won an Oscar for the role of Anita in the 1961 film version, was one of many VIP fans who came to Twitter's headquarters Tuesday to celebrate the first complete live recording of the show's score.
There was much to celebrate: Although the album was only just released on CD it debuted in the No. 1 slot on both the Billboard and iTunes classical charts. This was the first time a CD snagged both top spots on the strength of digital release alone (although you can buy an actual CD at the Symphony store and elsewhere).
Maestro Michael Tilson Thomas was full of praise for everyone, from the "remarkable" composer Leonard Bernstein's estate for allowing the recording to be made, to host Twitter (whose COO Ali Rowghani is a new member of the Symphony board), to the "fantastic" cast including Jessica Vosk as Anita, Alexandra Silber as Maria and "30 Rock" star Cheyenne Jackson as Tony.
Rowghani couldn't make the event, but Rishi Garg, Twitter's vice president of corporate development and strategy, capably stood in as master of ceremonies, introducing Thomas to talk about the CD and how it came about.
"I heard Cheyenne sing at a fundraiser years ago," Thomas said of Jackson before he performed "Maria," "and I thought 'I must remember him.' "
Former Symphony President John Goldman later joked with Thomas that they were both in attendance at the American Foundation for AIDS Research event Jackson sang at and could share the credit for the discovery.
"I did the musical in my 20s and I wanted to revisit it again now that I've grown as a singer," said Jackson, who attended with his fiance, Jason Landau. "I'm 39 years old and I knew this would probably be my last chance."
Susan Stauter, the artistic director for the San Francisco Unified School District, attended at the behest of Bernstein's son, Alexander, who was unable to make the trip to San Francisco but is a strong supporter of the project.
After a performance by Silber ("#Ifeelpretty," she joked), the entertainment was supposed to be over. Vosk, who recently closed in Broadway's "The Bridges of Madison County," hadn't prepared anything and is recovering from the flu.
But that wasn't good enough for Moreno.
From her table in the audience, Moreno called out, "This is Rita. Sing a few bars from 'A Boy Like That.' "
Vosk totally nailed the unforgettable opening of that song.
When Rita commands, who could disobey? Not even the flu.
When asked about the enduring popularity of the show, Moreno and the concert cast were in agreement.
"It is, quite simply, a perfect musical," Jackson said.
Tony Bravo is a regular contributor to the Style and Datebook sections of The Chronicle. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org