West Side Story

Hal Prince on Producing ‘West Side Story’ (Audio Exclusive)

I heard all the music as Lenny composed it, and Steve wrote the lyrics …

Today, legendary producer and director Harold (Hal) Prince’s 60-plus years of working on Broadway and 21 Tony Awards are evidence enough of his gifts, but in 1957 he was still relatively untested.

Prince reveals how he agreed to produce West Side Story after hearing some of the music surreptitiously from Steve Sondheim, a close friend — then later, played by “Lenny” himself — in these excerpts from an exclusive interview with Classical.org.

Meeting Bernstein, Hearing Music through Sondheim

Prince met Bernstein in the 1950’s, while working as an assistant stage manager on Wonderful Town. 

[Lenny] was full of buoyant energy …

I also knew about West Side Story, which apparently had a 12-year gestation period… I heard all the music as Lenny composed it… (but) I was not supposed to.

‘We have no show’

As he and his artistic partners were struggling on their third show in three years, Prince asks Sondheim about his show: West Side Story. 

I was not supposed to have heard the score, so I acted like I didn’t… but then I forgot, and I started to hum along…

What makes the music of West Side Story special?

West Side Story became a sparkling jewel in Prince’s crown of theatrical successes.

Everything about [West Side Story] was exciting… during rehearsals, I’d just sit there in awe …

About this content

This content is from an exclusive interview of Hal Prince by Classical.org’s Anthony J. Rudel, recorded in New York, New York, on December 7, 2017. Copyright: WGBH/Classical.org. All rights reserved.

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