The music from "West Side Story" remains iconic 61 years after it was first performed on stage.
The crowd-pleasers "Tonight," "I Feel Pretty," "Something's Coming" and 13 more original songs have become part of the timeless soundtrack of American culture.
The score from "West Side Story," written by the great American composer Leonard Bernstein, will be performed in its entirety by the Colorado Springs Philharmonic on Friday and Saturday at Pikes Peak Center. Maestro Josep Caballe-Domenech will conduct the Philharmonic Pops performance. It is the finale of the Philharmonic's six-week festival, "Bernstein at 100," celebrating the centennial of the late composer's birth. Bernstein died in 1990, but his musical genius lives on.
"This is a composer who is exceedingly important to serious music lovers. Whatever their age or demographic, they understand that Leonard Bernstein completely transformed the way people and also music makers experience music," said Nathan Newbrough, president and CEO of the Philharmonic. "He advocated for new composers and let us appreciate music in a new way. He was someone deeply grounded in the humanities who could communicate the complexities and the joys of the humanities. This was a genius for the 20th century."
"West Side Story," inspired by William Shakespeare's classic story of doomed lovers "Romeo and Juliet," was perhaps Bernstein's most famous work. The film won Best Picture in 1961, along with nine other Oscars. It's the story of Maria and Tony, who fall in love despite coming from different groups (the Jets and the Sharks) but are kept apart.
While the vocals and dialogue of the film starring Natalie Wood and Richard Beymer plays on the big screen, the Philharmonic will perform the score of the 2 -hour, 33-minute film. There will be one intermission.
"We will show the entire high-definition film from start to finish. They've taken the original film, upgraded it to high-def and removed the instrumental music, so that will be played by the Philharmonic live on stage," Newbrough said. "It's a really astonishing thing. For the musicians on stage, it must be thrilling and terrifying. The music is not for the faint of heart, and it's also played at Bernstein's tempos, which means a blisteringly fast performance from start to finish."
Tickets are selling briskly, Newbrough said. The two dates were not quite sold out at press time.
The Bernstein festival comprised 105 performances - 14 by the Philharmonic - by a spate of community partners.
"'West Side Story' is the big finale of the festival," Newbrough said. "It's been a joy throughout. It's also been the largest, most ambitious partnership collaboration ever produced by this orchestra. I want to include a thanks to our sponsors and partner organizations. They went out on a limb to join us."
Festival partners were Colorado College, Rocky Mountain Women's Film Institute, Colorado Springs Chorale, Cultural Office of the Pikes Peak Region, Downtown Partnership of Colorado Springs, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College, UCCS Galleries of Contemporary Art, KCME 88.7 FM, Pikes Peak Library District, Theatreworks and Opera Theatre of the Rockies, The Shivers Fund at PPLD, and Ormao Dance Company.
Penrose-St. Francis Health Services Centura Health was the presenting sponsor. Production sponsors were El Pomar Foundation, GE Johnson Construction Co. and El Paso County. For a full list of sponsors, visit csphilharmonic.org.