Double Bravo! “Lenny” & “Steve”
Let the record show I’m as excited as anyone free of all musical training that this coming Saturday (August 25) is the centennial of Leonard Bernstein’s birth. Classical MPR, especially, has been making a big deal of the milestone, properly so, as it’s impossible not to be amazed by the depth, width, and length of Bernstein’s brilliance. I recall, if only vaguely, his popular televised “Young People’s Concerts in the 1950s. And given that I grew up in New York, his “West Side Story” was metaphorically down the street.
Note what I just wrote: “his” West Side Story. The musical, which opened on Broadway in 1957, surely was Bernstein’s. But it also was lyricist Stephen Sondheim’s, whose words made “Maria” sing as beautifully as Bernstein’s notations. Same with lyrics to “America,” “Somewhere,” “Tonight,” “I Feel Pretty,” and unquestionably, “Gee, Office Krupkie.” I’ve been on this kick for more than 30 years, I suspect, because I write better than I compose, which I can’t do at all.
I don’t recall what the occasion was, but there was another time, in the 1980s, when millions likewise were swooning about Bernstein, to the extent that some were rhapsodizing, “Lenny, Lenny, “Lenny” in newspapers and maybe in the streets, too. This was deserved and appropriate, certainly, even though I still can’t envision him as a “Lenny.”
But as with now, I wasn’t pleased back then that Sondheim, now 88, was rhapsodized hardly at all anywhere, even when the subject was “West Side Story” itself. So, I wrote a brief column, which was more of a blog before blogs had been born, that said that it’s truly wonderful to celebrate Bernstein in triplicate, but artistic justice demanded we do the same for Sondheim, as it still does.
So, all at once now, and with gusto for their stunning contributions: “Lenny and Steve,” “Lenny & Steve,” “Lenny and Steve.”
What, you say? What about director and choreographer Jerome Robbins? Ouch.
Everybody all again: Please insert three “Jerrys.”