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Chita Rivera: ‘West Side Story’ changed her career

by Kathi Scrizzi Driscoll


Chita Rivera was a dancer. Leonard Bernstein made her a singer, too.

And singing – plus stories – will be what fans will largely be treated to Monday night at Cotuit Center for the Arts when Rivera sits down with host/accompanist Seth Rudetsky to look back on her 65-year Broadway career.
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Bronx Talk with Gary Axelbank talks to musician Bobby Sanabria about West Side Story and its music.
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Martha Swope, 88, Who Etched Dance and Theater History in Photographs, Dies

By SYLVIANE GOLD

Martha Swope, whose crisp, compelling photographs of dancers and actors at work recorded nearly half a century of stage history, died on Thursday in New York. She was 88.

The cause was Parkinson’s disease, said Jeanne Fuchs, her longtime friend and executor.

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From 1957, when Ms. Swope was invited by Jerome Robbins to shoot rehearsals of “West Side Story,” to 1994, when she shut down her Times Square studio and sold her archive, Ms. Swope produced hundreds of thousands of images of performers in action, capturing Gelsey Kirkland and Mikhail Baryshnikov in full flight, the cast of “La Cage Aux Folles” in full drag and John Travolta in full Saturday night fever.

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West Side Stories: The Making of a Classic, BBC Two
Excellent footage and interviews not always put to good use

by David Benedict

The last time BBC TV headed over to West Side Story, it landed itself with a contradiction. Christopher Swann’s 1985 fly-on-the-wall documentary The Making of West Side Story – about Leonard Bernstein recording his celebrated score with a cast of opera singers – bagged the prestigious Prix Italia, but the actual material was a wildly unidiomatic misfire. The reverse was true of BBC2’s Boxing Day special West Side Stories – The Making Of A Classic. The material – archive and newly filmed – that producer/director Ursula Macfarlane had acquired was often first-rate: what she did with it was somewhat frustrating.
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West Side Stories - The Making of a Classic

West Side Story is one of the best loved musicals of all time. A modern day Romeo and Juliet, its timeless story and exhilarating dance and music continue to excite audiences around the globe. Songs such as Maria, Somewhere, Tonight, and America have all become some of the biggest hits in show business.

Now, as the world prepares to celebrate the 60th anniversary of West Side Story in 2017, dancer Bruno Tonioli and broadcaster Suzy Klein go in search of the true stories behind the inception of this classic show.

With the BBC Symphony Orchestra and specially cast singers we re-live some of the wonderful music, and in the company of Suzy and Bruno we discover how West Side Story placed the 1950s phenomena of racial tension and teenage gangs centre stage to create a hit that changed musical theatre forever.


The opening night

The original Maria relives the opening night of West Side Story. Set to the 'Tonight' quintet.

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The Night 'West Side Story' Opened in Washington

by Ellen Wexler

When West Side Story premiered in the summer of 1957, Felicia Montealegre wanted to be in Washington.

Felicia, wife of composer Leonard Bernstein, had come down with the flu while on a trip to Chile and was missing the August 19 premiere of Bernstein’s show at The National Theatre. A contemporary retelling of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet that takes place in New York’s Upper West Side, the show was scheduled to open in Washington for a three-week pre-Broadway tryout.
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The musical rumble that makes listeners love ‘West Side Story’

On this day nearly six decades ago, “West Side Story” premiered on Broadway. And the music of the Sharks and the Jets, and star-crossed lovers Tony and Maria is as vibrant as it was in 1957. Jeffrey Brown sits down with composer and musician Rob Kapilow to discuss what it is about Leonard Bernstein’s hit musical style that has allowed the love story to live on for decades.

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On this day in 1957... Happy Anniversary to West Side Story

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Onstage & Backstage: Which Annie Author Starred in the Original West Side Story?

By Seth Rudetsky

Last week, I was contacted by the BBC because they’re doing a piece on West Side Story, and they wanted me to do a panel with various cast members. I booked guests on my SiriusXM radio show “Seth Speaks” and had them film it. It went so great! I had original cast member Martin Charnin (Big Deal), replacement original cast member Harvey Evans who then did the film (Gee-Tar and, in the film, Mouthpiece), Liza Gennaro (daughter of Peter who did all the Latin dances in the show), Jim Borstelman (swing in Jerome Robbins Broadway), Scott Wise (Riff in Jerome Robbins Broadway, Tony Award!) and Andrea Burns from On Your Feet, who danced as a Shark Girl and then took over as Maria in productions throughout America and Europe.

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Martin Charnin, Jim Borstelman, Scott Wise, Seth Rudetsky, Harvey Evans and Liza Gennaro



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A composite of clips from the original production of West Side Story (1957). I have added audio, and synched to the silent video wherever possible.
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West Side Story : Geniuses at Work

By Dennis Razze

“The radioactive fallout from West Side Story must still be descending on Broadway this morning.”

This was the opening line of Walter Kerr’s review of the opening night performance of West Side Story published in the New York Herald Tribune on September 27, 1957. To Kerr, the impact of the musical was as if an atomic bomb dropped on Manhattan—West Side Story certainly changed the American musical forever.
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10 Star-Crossed Facts About 'West Side Story'
.
Mark Mancini

After this daring musical made its Big Apple debut on September 26, 1957, critics reacted as if an atomic bomb had gone off over Manhattan. The next day, Walter Kerr of The New York Herald Tribune wrote that “The radioactive fallout from West Side Story must still be descending on Broadway.” Theatergoers were stunned. Here was an edgy, electrifying show with some of the boldest choreography ever staged. An emotional rollercoaster from start to finish, Tony and Maria’s tragic tale has been moving audiences for over half a century.
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On this day in 1957... Happy Anniversary to West Side Story

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West Side Story: Birth of a Classic

Birth of a Musical

The Broadway musical is a commercial art form that often aspires to, and occasionally attains, high art. It is also a collaborative medium, in which the librettist, composer, lyricist, director, and choreographer determine together the details of plot and action, the style and tone of the production, and how music, movement, and language will be used to best convey the story they wish to tell. The collaboration also involves dozens of people who play key roles, including the designers of the set, lighting, and costumes, the orchestrators and musicians, and ultimately the performers who must embody not only the characters they play, but also must be able to sing and dance—in the case of West Side Story—this most demanding music and choreography. The items on display in this section come from the Library’s Leonard Bernstein Collection and provide a rare window into this complex process.
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