Fans Voted & The Ultimate Hal Prince Musical Is…
After a fierce competition, Arthur Laurents, Jerome Robbins, Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim’s West Side Story beats Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler’s Sweeney Todd by a nose as the ultimate Hal Prince musical, as voted on by fans.
Produced by Hal Prince and Robert E. Griffith, West Side Story opened at Broadway’s Winter Garden Theatre on September 26, 1957 and ran 732 performances (switching theatres from the Winter Garden to the Broadway back to the Winter Garden). It was nominated for six 1958 Tony Awards and won two for Best Scenic Design (Oliver Smith) and Best Choreography (Jerome Robbins). It lost Best Musical to The Music Man—and theatre nerds still can’t actually believe it.
The original Broadway cast famously included Chita Rivera as Anita, Carol Lawrence as Maria, Larry Kert as Tony, Mickey Calin as Riff and Ken Le Roy as Bernado. Chita went on to open the London production opposite future West Side Oscar winner George Chakiris as Riff (he would play Bernardo in the film).
The Oscar-winning film adaptation directed by Jerome Robbins and Robert Wise opened in 1961 and received 11 Oscar nominations and won 10 Academy Awards—the record for a movie musical. In 1997, it was selected for the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.
West Side Story was brought back to Broadway twice in the 1960s: once with Kert and Lawrence reprising their roles as Tony and Maria in April 1960, and then a limited 31 performance run at City Center in 1964. The 1980 revival starred Debbie Allen as Anita and Jossie de Guzman as Maria, both women received Tony noms. Arthur Laurents directed the most recent 2009 revival, for which Karen Olivo became the first actress to win a Tony Award playing Anita.
A highlight of MTC’s Prince of Broadway, West Side Story is presented early in act one. First, the absolutely perfect Tony Yazbeck sings “Something’s Coming” then romance abounds as he and newcomer Kaley Ann Voorhees sing “Tonight” on the fire escape. It’s a must-see moment.
Prince of Broadway runs at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre through October 22.