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'West Side Story': The original creative team

Posted 9:10am on Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013

West Side Story was created by one of the illustrious gathering of artists ever seen in the credits of a Broadway show: Arthur Laurents (book), Stephen Sondheim (lyrics), Jerome Robbins (direction and choreography) and Leonard Bernstein (music). And this touring production is very directly linked that group, since both its director, David Saint, and choreographer, Joey McKneely, worked with Laurents on the 2009 Broadway revival of the show and had ties to Robbins and Sondheim.

Here is a brief look at one of the greatest quartets ever assembled for a Broadway show.

Arthur Laurents (1917-2011) was writing radio plays when he was approached to provide the book (or story) for West Side Story. He followed this first musical book with one for another Broadway classic: Gypsy, in 1959. His Hollywood credits were as impressive as those for Broadway. He provided the screenplays for Alfred Hitchcock's Rope (1948), plus The Way We Were (1973) and The Turning Point (1977).

Stephen Sondheim (b. 1930): Few composers of the American musical theater are more universally respected than Stephen Sondheim. He is justly famous for complexly composed, cerebral musicals such as Company, Sunday in the Park With George, A Little Night Music, Sweeney Todd and Into the Woods. Mentored by Oscar Hammerstein II, Sondheim is often credited with having reinvented the Broadway musical.

Jerome Robbins (1918-1998): Robbins' list of credits as a choreographer and director is staggering. He performed one or both of those roles on West Side Story, The King and I, Gypsy, The Pajama Game and Fiddler on the Roof. He collaborated with Leonard Bernstein on a number of shows, including the ballet Fancy Free (1944) and the musical On the Town (1944). Interestingly, he shared a Best Director Oscar with Robert Wise for West Side Story, despite being fired from the film because his rigorous approach (and the time it required) was threatening the budget.

Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990): The most widely recognized member of this quartet of musical theater titans, Bernstein is probably much better known for his enormous contributions to classical music in the 20th century, especially in his role as conductor of the New York Philharmonic from 1958 to 1971. He was a larger-than-life figure on and off the podium, and his long list of successes includes a few Broadway musicals.

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