One of the few things I truly miss not living in the modern world, live professional musical theater. I have always had a passion for musical theater, even in my youth. My folks took me kicking and screaming to see Yule Brenner in the King and I and I have been hooked ever since. If I had to list my favorites, West Side Story and the Sound of Music would be at the top of a long list. So, when I read a real London production of both shows was coming to Manila, I jumped and bought ticket months in advance.
This took Donna to her first ever live theater, musical and certainly first West Side Story… having no knowledge of the story theme, she was stunned. This is a look I have not seen on her.
WSS is not there to make you feel good ala Cats.it is there to make you feel. It goes deep into the marrow of your soul, wringing out every hidden emotion. The ultimate cathartic experience in musical theater.
How? story: take the worlds greatest iconic love story move it to then modern NYC… but how can you take the single most beautiful collection of words in the English languages, the RJ balcony scene and put it in 50’s NYC? Simple use music.
The music, Leonard Bernstein later lamented that his symphony writing never hit the quality nor popularity of his master piece WSS… the music hits every note, no easy passes, not lala songs, every note of every instrument is exact and on point
So now they needed lyrics that would create the story, and Stephen Sondheim does exactly that, lines like “play it loud and its like music playing, play it soft and it is almost like praying”
Doc: When do you kids stop? You make this world lousy!
Action: We didn't make it, Doc.
TONY AND MARIA: Today, the world was just an address A place for me to live in, no better than all right. But here you are And what was just a world is a star!
TONY: Tonight, tonight
Won't be just any night
Tonight there will be no morning star.
I'll see my love tonight,
And for us, stars will stop
Where they are.
These are lyrics that touch the soul, perfect in every word and a testimony to the original story teller Shakespeare. Add to riveting musical score the impeccable lyrics a dance score that goes beyond just dancing, it tells the story. The opening number grasps you and the choreography never stops thrilling to the end. My heart skips at every syncopated leap.
The London production used a combination of troupe cast and locals, even a cameo off set song by a local recording star. The dance numbers were spot on, and remarkable. It was interesting to watch the audience, most seeing this for the first time and many their fist live theater.
With West Side Story behind us yet the songs still ringing in our heads we went to the second in this series of top musicals, The Sound of Music. This one is just more fun and less cathartic yet equally as brilliant in song.
SOM is the all-time classic musical, it defines the glory of the 60’s musical theater, a genre never to be equaled. I have seen it done from small town community theater to Broadway productions, even an outdoor production in the Cascade mountains, always hear warming. Donna was more prepared and the play less riveting, so she had a blast and jumped up to give a standing ovation along with me.
They used local kids for the younger family members, as it turns out we know one of them. His family boat is next to our mooring at Puerto Galera. I talked to the father, a music teacher himself, and learned some cool things about the production, all of which made it even more beneficial and experience,
Ah life in the Philippines, one minute at a London production of my favorite musicals, the next in a remote village with grass roofed huts and palm trees. It is a wonderful place.
Make Your Dream Your Story
Capt. Brian Calvert