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LEONARD BERNSTEIN
&
JEROME ROBBINS
- - - - - - - - - By: Erik Larson - - - - - - - - Leonard Bernstein – August 19, 1918 - October 14, 1990
- Interest in music began at very young age after he was amazed by a piano performance
- Took piano until attending Harvard for music, his main passions being composition and conducting
- Assistant conductor of the NYPO in 1943, became a well known conductor and orchestral writer
- In the mid-40’s, started performing piano concertos and writing ballets, introduction to musical theatre
- Broadway debut as a composer was with Wonderful Town in 1953, one of his most popular musicals
- Left Broadway in 1976 after 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue became a flop, performing only 7 shows
- Focus later in life was composing and conducting symphonies, which he did extensively until death
- Other works in theatre include Peter Pan in 1950, operetta Candide in 1956, his own Mass in 1973
- Travelled to conduct countless orchestras allover the world and record piano music
- Winner of 16 Grammys, Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, 1 Tony, Special Tony Award
- Bernstein helped link classical and popular music together into musical theatre scores
- Influence to generation of composers, setting new standard for composition complexity in theatre
Jerome Robbins – October 11, 1918 - July 29, 1998
- Family’s connections to performers and theatre owners spiked initial interest in musical theatre
- Dropped out of University to pursue dancing; studied ballet, modern, Spanish, and composition
- Danced in the chorus of many 1940’s Broadway productions, choreographed at dance camps
- Within a few years, Robbins became a regular director and choreographer on Broadway
- Popularity spiked in 1947 after winning a Tony for his choreography in High Button Shoes
- Main choreography work on Broadway during years with Bernstein included 1951’s King And I
- Directing and choreographing career continued until his death, replaced his career in performance
- Went on to direct and choreograph shows such as Gypsy in 1959, Fiddler On The Roof in 1964
- Left Broadway in early 1970’s to become the ballet trainer at the New York City Ballet in 1972
- 4 Tonys, 2 Oscars, countless lifetime achievement awards for contributions to musical theatre dance
- Broke the barriers for the treatment of dancers in the industry, as fellow cast members
- Original choreography of Robbins still used in productions of his today as respect for his brilliance
- He and Bernstein are both recipients of the Kennedy Center Honors for their contributions to the arts
Collaborative Beginnings
- The ballet Fancy Free became the first collaboration between Bernstein and Robbins
- Robbins conceived the idea, choreographed and danced in ballet, score written by Bernstein in 1944
- Adapted into the Broadway musical On The Town the same year, their Broadway debut as a duo
- First of many collaborative efforts for the years to come as their friendship arose
- Duo went on to collaborate on the ballets Facsimile in 1946, and Dybbuk in 1974
- Continued to work independently throughout collaborative years, most popular pieces were as a pair
West Side Story
- Story conceived by Robbins and presented to Bernstein in 1947, a show based off of Romeo & Juliet
- During early development between Bernstein and Robbins, Stephen Sondheim hired to write lyrics
- Opened on Broadway September 26, 1957 to all-around rave reviews from critics
- Directed by Jerome Robbins and marked Sondheim’s Broadway debut, career popularity began
- “America”, “Maria”, “Somewhere”, “Something’s Coming” among songs that became popular
- 1957 Tony for Robbins’ choreography, 1961 film won 10 Oscars, including Best Picture
- Remains one of musical theatre’s greatest works for innovations in musicality and choreography