3.1 West Side Story! (Sondheim Season Premiere)

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Today, we begin our long awaited exploration of the musicals of the great Stephen Sondheim (1930-2021) who died recently at the age of 91. We're starting with one of Sondheim’s early collaborations: the 1957 classic West Side Story, which saw Sondheim working as lyricist alongside composer Leonard Bernstein. We talk about:

- The death of Sondheim and his emerging status as a guru/wisdom teacher in the “church” of musical theatre – a reputation famously sent-up by the song “God”

- The origins of West Side Story (1957) in the racial & religious tensions between Jewish & Catholic immigrants in New York City’s East Side at the turn of the 20th century, and how race in America had shifted by the 50s

- "Something’s Coming," "The Jet Song," and the two dueling religious systems in West Side Story: group belonging vs. love, and the desire for a conversion experience

- The show’s classic love songs—"Tonight," "Maria," and "Somewhere"—with their theological ideas about the full embodiment of sexual desire, and the power (and lure) of forbidden love

- West Side Story’s social agenda, explored in "Gee, Officer Krupke" and "America," and the tension between whether we hold society or individuals responsible for violence

- Whether the show ends in tragedy or hope – the challenge of redemptive violence and the promise of Maria as the priest of her community

You’ll hear:

- The company of the 2010 revue Sondheim on Sondheim (including the great Barbara Cook, Vanessa L. Williams, Leslie Kritzer, Erin Mackey, Tom Wopat, Norm Lewis, Euan Morton, and Matthew Scott), singing the song “God”

- Isaac Cole Powell singing "Something’s Coming" (available to watch here)

- Larry Kert & Carol Lawrence singing "Tonight," "Somewhere" and "I Feel Pretty" from the original 1957 Broadway Cast Recording.

- Max Goberman, Eddie Roll, Grover Dale and the company of the original Broadway cast singing "Gee, Officer Krupke"

- Carol Lawrence, Carmen Gutierrez, Marilyn Cooper and Elizabeth Taylor singing "I Feel Pretty" from the Original Broadway Cast recording.

Continue the conversation with Peter (@pgeinvan) and Nathan (@nathan_lerud) on Twitter, and follow the Gospel of Musical Theatre on Instagram or Twitter @gospelofmt.

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