BWW Interview: Music Supervisor Donald Chan Talks WEST SIDE STORY International Tour
Manila, Philippines--The spirit of every musical theater production is its score. If a musical makes an audience hum its show tunes at the end of the show, then it served its purpose of prime entertainment. Such is the case of the phenomenal "West Side Story" with its music enchantingly created by Leonard Bernstein, one of the first American conductors to be known the world over. With such a distinct mark in music history, Bernstein's music stands out and must be meticulously executed with justice and diligence.
Donald Chan, the esteemed music supervisor-conductor of the 60th-anniversary international tour of "West Side Story," currently playing at The Theatre at Solaire, happened to have met the great conductor [Bernstein] at the Juilliard School of Music in New York.
"I met Leonard during my twenties. He did not actually teach me during my time at Juilliard but he left a lasting impression on me... he is a great composer of his generation...a remarkable talent..." said Chan.
When asked about the music of "West Side Story," Donald quickly remarked that the score was made that way to reflect not only the era but the theme of the story.
"'West Side Story' was adapted from Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. The music was written to engage the audience and ensure that though the tale was told multiple times in different angles, it still offered something different--it was the music."
The music supervisor-conductor also added that the lasting impression of theatergoers of multiple generations is the fact that the score was accompanied by a twist of modern and classical ballet.
"On a personal note, my favorite part is the ballet suite at the opening... it is classical but groovy at the same time... it is an exposition of what the story is and sets the mood of all the numbers... tightly knitted to make sure that audiences would be engrossed up until the end."
He also narrated on how important the music is to the production.
"Only a few musicals have the distinction of having many bejeweled songs, one is 'West Side Story.' In fact, the songs from this classic are more known than the musical itself. The songs were covered individually and it only shows the power of the music to stand out and be an icon by itself."
He also noted that the score of the musical became the landmark of its time because it provided the standards of modern-day musical productions.
When it comes to conducting the musical, he stressed that precision and timing are two of the most important factors to consider as the music is known for its exactness and accuracy.
He thanked all theatergoers for their support to the production.
"'West Side Story' has always been a good story to tell not because of its theme... it only falls second. It has always been the audience; the people who never faltered in supporting us. From the old to the young, 'West Side Story' became a good story to tell because every time you see it, there is always a new discovery waiting to be told."
A musician of diverse and accomplished talents, Donald has worked as a conductor, music director, and composer with the most esteemed names in American Music. He received his Master's degree from Juilliard School and completed his doctoral work at the University of Colorado. As music director, Donald's career has encompassed many of the most important, influential works of American Musical Theater, including "Cabaret," "Kiss of the Spider Woman," " The Pirates of Penzance," "Phantom of the Opera," and "West Side Story," where he serves as musical director for more than 3,000 performances all over the world.
"West Side Story" closes at The Theatre at Solaire on Sunday, August 27. Get last-weekend tickets at TicketWorld.com.ph.