BWW Reviews: WEST SIDE STORY Film is Accompanied by Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
I will always remember the date I first saw the film WEST SIDE STORY. It was February 20, 1962, the day John Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth in a space capsule. And I saw it at the Gary theatre in Boston.
I had already been in love with the Broadway cast album and really enjoyed the film.
When the Baltimore Symphony announced it would be showing the film and under the baton of Maestra Marin Alsop the BSO would be playing along, I couldn't wait for the big day. And what a momentous event it was.
The musicians were all dressed in black shirts and slacks like they were in a Broadway orchestra pit. Very clever. The orchestra was simply spectacular. Special kudos to Principal Trumpet player, Andrew Balio who made his trumpet sore. Steven Barta on clarinet and Emily Skala on flute shined. And the entire percussion section earned their pay check, especially during the rumble.
The song "Tonight" featured a beautiful solo by Concertmaster Jonathan Carney. After "America" the sold-out audience burst into applause.
During "Somewhere" I noticed the orchestrations called for the cello to begin alone, followed by the viola, and then Concertmaster Carney with a solo.
It was evidence this was an exhausting evening for Alsop. She occasionally used a stool to rest on. At the end of the film, as she was listening to the tremendous standing ovation, she looked drained and it was understandable. Alsop studied under composer Leonard Bernstein at Tanglewood and I'm sure she must have been thinking of him during the incredible evening.
The evening began with a round-table discussion of the film featuring three members of the cast. WBJC radio programming director Jonathan Palevsky moderated the panel comprised of Jet Bert Michaels (Snowboy), Jet Harry Evans (Mouth Piece) and Shark Eddie Verso (Juano). Marni Nixon, who sang the role of Natalie Wood and called "The Ghost Voice of Hollywood" was unable to attend due to an illness.
They had so many tales to tell. Michaels (who didn't look much different from his role in the film) mentioned that the film took place where the area around Lincoln Center was being demolished. The playground used in the film actually was filmed on 110th Street between 2nd and 3rd Avenue.
Evens spoke of the claustraphobic set for "Cool" and the double knee turns Robbins choreographed. The dancers all wore knee pads during rehearsals and after filming the scene, burned all their knee pads in front of Robbins. He added the actors were told "We're not showing this is going to work."
Verso stated he was in high school when he auditioned for the production of West Side Story going to London where he played a Jet and then was a Shark in the film. He has vivid memories of the film.
Evans recalls seeing it for the first time and called it an epic film thanks to being filmed in Panavision.