So the Tony Awards took place last night. Did anyone watch? I didn’t. Well that’s not really true. I watched a little, but I wasn’t paying much attention. But congratulations to all the winners, which brings us to our Music Monday post. It’s this practice of having awards shows and declaring “winners”, the winners presumably being the best of that year’s lot. Having said that, I present to you this implausible scenario: book by Arthur Laurents, music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, direction and choreography by Jerome Robbins. The year was 1958, and the show was “West Side Story”, and it did not – I repeat, DID NOT – win the Tony Award for Best Musical. It lost to . . . “The Music Man”
A modern re-telling of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet”, the show is an astonishing masterpiece of American musical theater. The characters Tony and Maria fill the roles of the star-crossed lovers, and rival New York City street gangs the Jets and the Sharks are the urban incarnations of the Montagues and the Capulets. Although none of the original Broadway cast members appeared in the 1961 film version of “West Side Story”, the movie adaptation was equally fabulous. It won the Oscar for Best Picture that year, which I suppose makes amends for the preposterous Tony loss three years earlier.
Here is a clip of the famous Mambo dance scene from the film. That’s the monumentally talented Rita Moreno in the pink dress in a dazzling performance in the role of Anita. I wanted to be Rita Moreno when I was girl. Natalie Wood and Richard Beymer play Maria and Tony. But the real “stars” of this scene are the music and dance. The actual mambo begins at 2:10 and the entire cast thrills with its movements and enthusiasm. I also remember that my father was in awe of the trumpet solo which starts at 4:12. Only trumpet players like Dad could understand how difficult that part is to play. Most exciting solos are. For Music Monday this is “West Side Story”: