"The Musical rumble that makes listeners love 'West Side Story'" PBS NewsHour 9/26/2016
SUMMARY: 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.
JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour): Finally tonight, on a light note: On this day in 1957, “West Side Story” debuted on Broadway.
Composer and musician Rob Kapilow is back to tell us why the music has withstood the test of time.
Jeffrey Brown sat down with Kapilow recently.
JEFFREY BROWN (NewsHour): Ron Kapilow, welcome back.
ROB KAPILOW, Composer: It's great to be here.
JEFFREY BROWN: So, “West Side Story,” one of the most famous musicals in history, but not quite what it was intended to be, I guess.
ROB KAPILOW: I think that's true.
You know, Leonard Bernstein had already written two his musicals, “On the Town” and “Wonderful Town,” and those shows are filled with Bernstein's love, facility, and affection for the popular music of the day. But they're lighthearted musicals, fundamentally.
And now he wanted to do something serious, and he got together an incredibly serious crew of guys. I mean, we had Jerome Robbins, who did serious ballets. We had Arthur Laurents, who wrote serious plays. We had Leonard Bernstein, and they wanted to do something serious.
That was the amazing thing about Bernstein. He could actually do both, and he crossed over. And this whole piece is really about, in a way, the conflict between those two worlds, between the serious world.
This is going to be, he called a tragic musical comedy, if that's not an oxymoron.
JEFFREY BROWN: Tragedies get turned into operas all the time.
ROB KAPILOW: All the time.
In fact, tragedy is the lifeblood of opera. It's not really an opera unless somebody dies at the end. But people don't usually die at the end in a Broadway musical.
And this one had a body count of three, with two of them dead at the first act curtain. I mean, that is not the stuff of a Broadway musical, not to mention a classic Shakespeare play, “Romeo and Juliet,” as the background.