Leonard Bernstein is often credited as being one of the greatest Broadway composers of all time. Whether it be ballet, opera, or a full stage show, his ability to tell a story through music was unrivalled. As celebrations begin for what would have been the great composer’s 100th birthday, we look back at his biggest hits in a one-night-only extravaganza – Bernstein on Broadway.
With works from On the Town, Wonderful Town, Fancy Free, Candide, Peter Pan, and West Side Story, we explore some of the greatest Broadway stories ever told. There are, however, a few lesser-known offstage facts about Leonard Bernstein and how he changed the musical world:
Fancy Free, Bernstein’s first collaboration with Jerome Robbins, tells the story of three sailors on shore-leave in New York City for 24 hours. The 27-minute ballet was a runaway success and launched Bernstein’s composing career to new heights, including serving as inspiration for the duo’s next endeavour, the smash hit Broadway musical On The Town.
Nine years after the success of On The Town, and after swearing to “never, never, never”write another score for a musical, Bernstein was approached to write the music for Wonderful Town. He was given a four-week deadline… a challenge the composer welcomed with open arms! Wonderful Town went on to win seven Tony Awards, including best musical.
West Side Story, arguably Bernstein’s biggest on-stage success, originally focused on a young Jewish woman and an Italian Catholic man, with their forbidden romance set on the Lower East Side of New York City. The original working title was East Side Story, however, the 1949 Los Angeles riots amongst Mexican-American communities served as inspiration for the final storyline – including its relocation to the Upper West Side.
Explore the magical world of Broadway through the eyes and ears of Leonard Bernstein below.