Mambo!

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”:

8 thoughts on “Mambo!

  1. violinhunter says:

    I played the Symphonic Dances from West Side Story (by Bernstein himself) not too long ago – far more fully orchestrated than the original score. It wasn’t too easy but it was not as difficult as the Prokofiev Romeo and Juliet ballet score – at least not for the violins. 🙂

    • artmodel says:

      violinhunter,

      Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet is one of my very favorites. Almost anything by Prokofiev in fact. The NY Philharmonic played the Symphonic Dances of West Side Story at the beginning of the season. I watched the TV broadcast, it was wonderful.

      Thanks for your comments!

      Claudia

      • violinhunter says:

        Claudia, You know a lot about music – I am curious about that – and I agree that Prokofiev’s score is truly great. I know next to nothing about modeling and just a little bit about acrylic painting. I was surprised to see a video of the National Symphony playing that furious passage from the Death of Tybalt faster than any orchestra I have heard – not Chicago, New York, Berlin, Boston, etc. Rostropovich was conducting. Speed can be impressive but sometimes it leaves one feeling as if one just ate something yummy but way too fast to really savor it. You don’t have that problem in modeling!! 🙂

  2. Andrew says:

    This is my childhood memory of Rita Moreno.

    • artmodel says:

      Andrew, that was great!! Thanks for posting! Rita was so funny. I LOVED Electric Company. Children’s TV programming was great back then.

      Claudia

  3. Bill MacDonald says:

    Now, now, no picking on “The Music Man”. Not only did it contain the only Broadway tune ever recorded by the Beatles (who performed it on their famous Ed Sullivan appearance), but it also featured a song about librarians. (I was a librarian for 32 years). Three cheers — quietly, of course 🙂

    But OK — “West Side Story” was better, I admit. But the aspect of this clip that I really liked was the camerawork. It complemented the choreography beautifully — probably the result of Robbins’ double duty as choreographer and director. All too often the camerawork competes with and upstages the dance — not here.

    BTW — nice to see John “Gomez Addams” Astin in the cameo appearance.

    • artmodel says:

      Bill,

      I shouldn’t have dissed The Music Man! Yeah I kinda did, I admit it. But you’re right, it’s a good show. And I love librarians! I just consider the overall caliber of West Side Story to be superior. I mean, Leonard Bernstein and all.

      I thought the exact same thing about the camerawork in the mambo scene. It’s brilliant. Jerome Robbins nailed it.

      Here are the Beatles doing the Music Man song, if I may redeem myself 🙂

      Claudia

  4. Bill MacDonald says:

    You are most thoroughly redeemed 🙂 Great clip — and thank you for the librarian appreciation 🙂 I actually have a Marian the Librarian action figure around here somewhere. . .

    I agree that West Side Story was the superior play — I wonder if it was just too far ahead of its time. I worked in the D Street Project in South Boston several years after the West Side Story movie came out — even then, every teenage girl in the projects was in love with that movie. And they were definitely not your stereotypical theater kids — it just spoke to them.

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