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Leonard Bernstein's New York

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September 26, 2001

A tribute to the City That Never Sleeps (and also knows how to deal with disaster with class) from one of its greatest musical citizens, Leonard Bernstein.

Selection Source Performer(s) Comments
Fancy Free, with choreography by Jerome Robbins (who expanded his choreography for On the Town later that year), was given its premiere by Ballet Theatre at the old Metropolitan Opera House on April 18th, 1944.
“Big Stuff” Introduction Fancy Free (1986) Jean Kittrell The blues tune “Big Stuff” is heard from behind the curtain before the ballet begins..
Opening Dance Fancy Free (1986) St. Louis Symphony conducted by Leonard Slatkin ..and is abruptly broken off by the orchestra as the curtain rises on three sailors out for a night on the town.
Variation I: Galop Fancy Free (1986) St. Louis Symphony conducted by Leonard Slatkin The sailors compete for the attention of two girls in a bar, each with his own characteristic dance.
Variation II: Waltz
Variation III: Danzon
The vignette about three sailors looking for a date in Fancy Free was expanded into a full-length musical about (in the words of Betty Comden and Adolph Green, who wrote the book and lyrics) “young people caught in [World War II], and the urgency of their desperately trying to cram a lifetime of adventure and romance into a moment”. On the Town opened on December 29th, 1944 and ran only 463 performances. It has been revived twice on Broadway (in 1959 and 1971) and was filmed in 1949 with no members of the original cast and, amazingly enough, almost none of Bernstein’s music!
Opening: New York, New York On the Town (Studio cast 1961) Michael Kermoyan, Adolph Green, John Reardon, Cris Alexander, Chorus Three sailors prepare for a 24-hour pass in New York. Green (who wrote the lyrics with long-time collaborator Betty Comden) and Alexander were members of the original 1944 cast, as was Comden.
Ain’t Got No Tears Left Leonard Bernstein’s New York (1996) Donna Murphy, Orchestra of St. Luke’s conducted by Eric Stern This was cut from the night club scene in On the Town
Wonderful Town, which opened on February 25th, 1953 at the Winter Garden and ran for 559 performances (longer than On the Town, although it has been revived less often) looks at a different aspect of New York: aspiring professionals trying to find fame and love in The Big Apple. The book, by Joseph Fields and Jerome Chodorov , is based on their 1940s play My Sister Eileen, which was itself based on the then-popular stories by Ruth McKenney about two girls from Columbus, Ohio who come to New York in the mid-1930s to seek the aforementioned fame and love. The idea for the show originated with director George Abbott, who recruited Comden and Green, who in turn recruited Bernstein, who had just returned from his honeymoon in Florida with his wife, Felicia.
Christopher Street Wonderful Town (Studio cast 1999) Rodney Gilfry, Company, Brimingham Contemporary Music Group conducted by Sir Simon Rattle It’s the summer of 1935 and a tour guide shows tourists around Christopher Street in Greenwich Village and introduces the principal characters in the show.
What a Waste Wonderful Town (Studio cast 1999) Thomas Hampson, Kim Criswell, Brimingham Contemporary Music Group conducted by Sir Simon Rattle Robert Baker, the editor of the magazine where Eileen’s sister Ruth is trying to sell some of her stories, advises Ruth to give it up and go home by offering some case studies.
A Little Bit in Love Wonderful Town (Studio cast 1999) Audra McDonald, Birmingham Contemporary Music Group conducted by Sir Simon Rattle Bob goes to Eileen and Ruth’s apartment to apologize for what he just said and Eileen finds herself smitten.
What can one say about West Side Story that hasn’t already been said? One trivia note: it was originally going to be titled East Side Story and the star-crossed lovers were to be a Catholic boy and Jewish girl.
Tonight (Quintet and Chorus) West Side Story (OC 1957) Chita Rivera, Larry Kert, Mickey Calin, Carol Lawrence, The Jets, The Sharks Anita, Tony, Riff, Maria and the rival gangs all have different visions of how things will go “Tonight”.
America West Side Story (OC 1957) Marilyn Cooper, Chita Rivera, Shark Girls Rita and Rosalia compare notes on life in America. This one is a nice reminder of the ethnic diversity of our country and New York in particular.
Prologue West Side Story (OC 1957) New York Philharmonic conducted by Leonard Bernstein From Bernstein's Symphonic Dances from West Side Story, a complete recording of which is included in the reissue of the West Side Story OCR I used for this show. I chose these excerpts because of the contrast between the vibrant dance scenes, the violent “Rumble” and “Prologue” and the elegiac finale.
New York, New York West Side Story Suite (2001) Joshua Bell, Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by David Zinman Back to On the Town again in his arrangement by William David Brohn

Acronyms and other mysteries defined:

OC: Unless otherwise indicated, the Original Cast recording of a Broadway show, along with the date.

OS: Unless otherwise indicated, the Original Soundtrack recording of a film, TV show, etc.

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