Tag Archives: West Side Story

Leonard Bernstein 8.25.13 Thought of the Day

English: Leonard Bernstein

English: Leonard Bernstein (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Louis Bernstein was born on this day in Lawrence, Massachusetts in 1918. Today is the 95th anniversary of his birth.

His parents, Jennie and Samuel Bernstein, were hard working Ukrainian  immigrants.  Although his birth cirtificate said ‘Louis’ everyone called him Leonard or Lenny. He officially changed his name when he was about 16.

His love affair with the piano began almost by accident when he was 10.

His Aunt Clara was going through a divorce and needed a place to store her massive upright piano. Lenny loved everything about the instrument, but his father refused to pay for lessons. Determined, the boy raised his own small pot of money to pay for a few sessions. He was a natural from the start, and by the time his bar mitzvah rolled around, his father was impressed enough to buy him a baby grand piano. The young Bernstein found inspiration everywhere and played with a voracity and spontaneity that impressed anyone who listened.  [Biography.com]

He attended Garrison Grammar School and Boston Latin School before going to Harvard University. In college he studies Music theory. 

In 1937, he attended a Boston Symphony concert conducted by Dmitri Mitropoulos. Bernstein’s heart sang when he saw the bald Greek man gesture with his bare hands, exuding a rare kind of enthusiasm for every score. At a reception the next day, Mitropoulos heard Bernstein play a sonata, and he was so moved by the young man’s abilities that he invited him to attend his rehearsals. Leonard spent a week with him. After the experience, Bernstein was determined to make music the center of his life. [Ibid]

After Harvard he went on to  the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia to study conducting with Fritz Reiner and  Berkshire Music Center at Tanglewood.

Leonard Bernstein, 1944

Leonard Bernstein, 1944 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

He landed a job with the New York Philharmonic and conducted his first concert on November 14, 1943. He went on to conduct internationally.

Bernstein wrote his first operetta, Candide in 1956. His second work for the stage was a collaboration with Jerome Robbins, Arthur Laurents andStephen Sondheim, the beloved musical West Side Story. When it opened, the show garnered unanimous rave reviews, matched only by its movie version released in 1961. [Ibid]

Here’s a two hour plus concert presentation of Candide…

And here’s a cool 10 minute mash up of modern day and original Broadway casts of West Side Story rehearsing for a Broadway Cares event…

[ANITA! 3:46  she still rocks!]  [Click here to see my BioBlog on Secondary Character Saturday: Anita]

Rehearsal photo for West Side Story

Rehearsal photo for West Side Story (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Secondary Character Saturday: Anita (West Side Story)

So… Tomorrow night I’m going to go see Romeo and Juliet at the  Baltimore Shakespeare Factory and that got me thinking about West Side  Story. And THAT got me thinking about one of my favorite Secondary Characters… Anita.


Who: Anita

From: West Side Story

West Side Story

West Side Story (Photo credit: thejcgerm)

By: Arthur Laurents, Stephen Sondheim,  and Leonard Bernstein

Produced: 1957 Broadway Premier / 1961 Film

Pros: feisty, spicy, self confident, beautiful, great dancer, great singer, realistic, loyal, great friend, gutsy,

Cons: A bit abrasive, assertive,  and hardly a saint.

Best Shining Moment: Singing AMERICA on the roof top. AND going into Jet territory to tell Tony to wait for Maria.

Least Shining Moment: When the Jets verbally, physically (and very nearly sexually) abuse her she lies to them (and thru them Tony) and tells them Maria is dead, setting up the tragic closing scenario. But that’s really on the Jets.

Rita Moreno 12.11.12 Thought of the Day

“Then there’s the story of ill-fated love. It’s universal.”
Rita Moreno

Caption for Rita Moreno

[Image courtesy: Berkeleyside]

Rosita Dolores Alverio was born on this day in Humacao, Puerto Rico in 1931. She is 81.

She moved to New York with her mother when she was six. Her first entertainment gig was doing Spanish voice overs to American films when she was 11. She made her Broadway debut in November of 1945 in Skydrift at the Belasco Theatre. Her name appeared in the program as Rita Moreno.

She appeared as Zelda Zanders in Singin’ in the Rain in 1952 and as Tuptim in The King and I in 1956. She also played a lot of  Latino “sexpot” roles, something she found degrading, but that she put up with.

Then came West Side Story…

Moreno (co-stars) as “Anita”, the Puerto Rican girlfriend of Sharks’ leader Bernardo, whose sister Maria is the piece’s Juliet. A seasoned singer and dancer, Moreno delivered a superb performance that completely overshadowed the Maria of the movie, the non-singer (and non-Hispanic) Natalie Wood, the only movie star in the ensemble cast. [IMDB Rita Moreno]

Watch her sing and dance up a storm with Geroge Chakiris and the Sharks (et al) in West Side Story…

But her performance went well beyond wise cracking, dancing and singing. She was…

…unforgettable in a harrowing scene where she had to deliver a message from Maria to the Romeo of the piece, the Jets’ member Tony, and is assaulted by his fellow gang-members. This is the real climax of the film.[Ibid]

She won an Oscar for her Anita.

Moreno is, in fact, the first person to win an Oscar, Emmy, Tony and Grammy — something only 12 other people have managed to achieve.. (She won Emmys for The Muppet Show and The Rockford Files; The Tony was for the musical The Ritz (’76), and the Grammy was for the soundtrack to the “Electric Company.”) In 2010 President Obama awarded Moreno a National Medal of  Arts.

Here she mets her match with the Muppet Show‘s Animal (or was it the other way around?)

From PBS kids shows like Where In the World is Carmen Sandiego to the hard-hitting HBO prison drama OZ (she won 3 American Latino Media Arts awards for her role as Sister Peter Marie Reimondo) Moreno always gives herself 100% to a project.

Here she is singing It’s An Art from the musical Working...

Moreno has over 130 credits listed in her TV and Movie database and has been working for over 6 decades. At 81 she still looks and sounds great, and shows little sign of slowing down.

Moreno in 2009. [Image courtesy NOVA Southeastern University.]

Moreno in 2009. [Image courtesy NOVA Southeastern University.]

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