Violinist: let “West Side Story” go out with dignity

Posted on: July 12, 2010

In Sunday’s (7/11) New York Times, Paul Woodiel writes, “In 1983, as a young violinist, I had the rare luck to form a friendship with Leonard Bernstein. One summer evening the following year, during dinner, Bernstein uttered a sentence that changed my life, ‘Why don’t you play ‘West Side Story’ with me? I’m recording it in the fall.’ … Last year, the stars aligned, allowing me to perform ‘West Side Story’ again, this time at the Palace Theater on Broadway. Now, after 500 performances, our producers have told us and our union that in order to cut costs they will chop our string section in half, releasing five musicians and ‘replacing’ them with a synthesizer piped in from another room. … Things aren’t great for Broadway musicians. There are fewer jobs than ever, as orchestras have increasingly become small bands. I’m O.K. with that; times change. Some shows need orchestras and violins; others don’t. But ‘West Side Story’ is one of those shows that does. The show is inseparable from its lush, sophisticated orchestration. So here’s my proposition: if the show is no longer profitable, the producers should simply close it with its dignity intact. Doing so might put me out of work, but it would honor (rather than demean) the legacy of Bernstein’s crown jewel.”

Posted July 12, 2010