West Side Stories: The Making of a Classic

Jamie Bernstein

West Side Stories: the Making of a Classic (BBC2) threw up a plethora of ways to ensure that 2017 effaces the memory of 2016. One – we spend its entirety celebrating the 60th anniversary of the 1957 musical. Two – we spend it worshipping Leonard Bernstein’s daughter Jamie, who blazed like a meteor through her father’s music (ya wanna brief explanation of the point of usin’ a tritonic score? You got it!), anecdotes about his creation and anything else she wanted. And three – we watch more programmes like this, which though it had obviously caved into commissioning pressure early on and agreed to Bruno Tonioli as one of its presenters, thereafter kept his potentially smothering presence as marginal as possible and concentrated on the music, the lyrics (“‘It’s a sound like there’s music playing’,” said Jamie disgustedly of her father’s lyrical attempts. “‘It’s a sound like in church when they’re praying.’ ‘Say it loud and there’s music playing – say it soft and it’s almost like praying.’ THAT’S a lyric! THAT was Stephen!”), the choreography; much of it recalled by the people who were there. Dryly by Stephen Sondheim, lushly by Broadway’s first Maria, Carol Lawrence, and joyfully by everyone.
Music and praying. There could be worse prescriptions for the new year.
Read the rest of the review here