Loving Lenny
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Loving Lenny

We saw West Side Story, now in previews, Tuesday night. I first saw it with my mother, 50 years ago, and it is still fresh (except for an occasional “Daddi-o”) and delightful and heartbreaking. The music has charm and power – and staying power. Fifty years later, it still shines bright, and two days after seeing the revival, I can still hear that brilliant music in my head.

The lyrics are funny and winsome, and the dancing is – well, the dancing is just fantastic. All the product of three Jews – Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim, and Jerome Robbins. Well, four – Arthur Laurents is the director of the current version and wrote the “book” (with a little help from W.S.).

Like every other Jewish mother her age, my mother had been half in love with “Lenny” ever since his astonishing debut at 25, as a “fill-in” for Bruno Walter, at Carnegie Hall. He was gifted, he was young, he was Jewish – she was as proud of him as if she were his own mother.

At any rate, we shlepped into the city on a bus, something we did very rarely, and went to a matinee. We were so far from the stage that the faces were merely blurs, but the music enthralled us. All the way home, we glowed. I know that she glowed all the brighter because of “Jewish pride.”

One wonders what kind of creative crucible we used to have that such talents emerged from it. Perhaps it was a kind of “hybrid vigor” – new (or relatively new) Americans encountering a new culture, and taking from it and giving something back.

RKB

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