It ran for two years and regular performances before it closed June 27, Conceived, directed, and choreographed by Jerome Robbins with co-choreography by Peter Gennaro, written by Arthur Laurents , music by Leonard Bernstein , lyrics by Stephen Sondheim , West Side Story put onstage the Manhattan of the era—a Manhattan teaming with gang violence and warring cultures. So what did critics have to say about the musical that would go one to become one of the barometers of the great American musical theatre when it first came out? New Herald Tribune Walter Kerr. Time Magazine.
The musical explores the rivalry between the Jets and the Sharks, two teenage street gangs of different ethnic backgrounds. The members of the Sharks, from Puerto Rico , are taunted by the Jets, a white gang. The dark theme, sophisticated music, extended dance scenes, and focus on social problems marked a turning point in American musical theatre. The original Broadway production, conceived, directed and choreographed by Jerome Robbins and produced by Robert E. Griffith and Harold Prince , marked Sondheim's Broadway debut. It ran for performances before going on tour. Robbins won the Tony Award for his choreography and Oliver Smith won for his scenic designs.
Make Way for … “Gang Way”?
For the groundbreaking musical, Bernstein provided a propulsive and rhapsodic score that many celebrate as his greatest achievement as a composer. Born in Lawrence, Massachusetts , to Russian-Jewish immigrants in , Bernstein began piano lessons at his own insistence when he was He immediately demonstrated an instinctive talent for music and by age 12 was studying at the New England Conservatory of Music. He studied conducting with Fritz Reiner and Serge Koussevitzky and in was hired as an assistant conductor for the New York Philharmonic. In the history of the orchestra, no assistant had been called on to conduct, but on November 14 fate smiled on Bernstein when guest conductor Bruno Walter fell ill. The night before, Bernstein had heard a singer perform one of his compositions and then, in typical Bernstein fashion, had stayed up late drinking and playing piano at the post-recital party. With three hours of sleep, a hangover, and no rehearsal, Bernstein was asked to conduct a complex program of Schumann, Strauss, Rosza, and Wagner that was going to broadcast from Carnegie Hall across the nation by CBS radio. The concert was a sensational success, and The New York Times published a front-page article the next day announcing the arrival of a great new conducting talent.
New Girl , unlike O'Neill's play, focuses on the jealousy of the character Marthy and on love's ability to conquer all. The musical ends far more hopefully than the play. The Broadway production opened on May 4, at the 46th Street Theatre , where it ran for performances. The show was written as a star vehicle for Gwen Verdon , who had just had a hit with Damn Yankees and won raves for her portrayal of Anna, a role that showed off her acting, singing and dancing abilities to maximum effect. Composer Bob Merrill was at the beginning of a string of s successes. Griffith and Hal Prince , was well received by both critics and audiences. Verdon, somewhat unusually, had three standbys: one each for acting, singing and dancing. Anna, a former streetwalker recovering from tuberculosis, returns home to live with her aging father, ex-sailor Chris Christopherson, in turn-of-theth century New York City after plying her trade in St. Paul, Minnesota for 15 years. Unaware of her sordid past, and remembering Anna as an innocent young girl, Chris joyfully welcomes his daughter home "Anna Lilla".