The Leonard Bernstein/Stephen Sondheim/Jerome Robbins landmark production of West Side Story opened on Broadway in September 1957. The stars were Larry Kert, Carol Lawrence, Chita Rivera and Mickey Calin. Among the supporting cast were Martin Charnin, Marilyn Cooper, Grover Dale and Tony Mordente.

To celebrate the Tony-winning musical's 50th Anniversary, Decca Broadway assembled a roster of classical crossover artists for West Side Story, a new, state-of-the-art recording of the score.

Bernstein's score was dazzling and varied, using Latin, jazz, street-savvy harmonies along with the soaring melodies of "Maria," "Somewhere," "Tonight," "I Have a Love" and "Something's Coming."

On the CD, two best-selling recording artists and critically acclaimed singers take on the roles of Maria and Tony: soprano Hayley Westenra and Italian tenor Vittorio [sic]. USA Today named Vittorio one of four possible heirs to Pavarotti's musical throne. Westenra, barely out of her teens, was said to have the "voice of an angel" by The New York Times.

The role of Anita is sung by Melanie Marshall. The cast includes an additional 15 singers. Nick Ingman conducts the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra.

Jamie Bernstein provides introductory liner notes. "One of the many reasons I love my father's score," she writes, "is that it can be enjoyed on so many levels. You can let the music wash over you like a glorious tide and simply revel in the rich melodies and propulsive rhythms; or inspect it more closely and be amazed at the intricacy of its composition."
Bernstein observes that "three notes, just three little notes, provide the musical key to the whole score. These are the opening notes: a G, a C and an F sharp. We hear these three notes again and again – in endless anagrams and permutations, creating and ingenious musical portrait of ambiguity."

Masterworks Broadway just released "A Place for Us: A Tribute to 50 Years of West Side Story," which reassembles chart-topping artists and instrumentalists on 10 tracks from various albums. They include Julie Andrews, Joshua Bell, the Dave Brubeck Quartet, the Canadian Brass. Eldar, Johnny Mathis, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Streisand and Andy Williams. Kristin Chenoweth and Hugh Panaro recorded a duet of "Tonight" especially for the album. In the way of previously unreleased material, Andre Previn, on piano, leads a jazz trio in a six-minute riff on "Gee, Officer Krupke."

[END]Bernstein: West Side Story (Decca) Royal Liverpool Philharmonic/Ingman - (CD review)

Key Subjects: 
West Side Story, Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim, Hayley Westenra, Vittorio
Ellis Nassour
June 2007
A Newly Operatic Take on West Side Story