Stephen Sondheim’s last US TV interview before his death
During a special episode of 20/20 title Something’s Happening: West Side Story, airing Sunday on ABC, director Steven Spielberg opened up about the beloved musical’s return to the big screen.
by Spielberg West Side Story was adapted by Tony Kushner from the 1957 musical and stars Ansel Elgort, Rachel Zegler and Ariana DeBose, as well as Rita Moreno, who starred as Anita in the 1961 film. Inspired by William Shakespeare Romeo and Juliet, West Side Story tells the story of two street gangs of teenagers from different ethnic backgrounds.
Talk to 20/20Spielberg explained why he wanted to direct a reimagining, which is also the first musical he’s ever directed.
“The score has been a part of my life since I was 10. My parents bought the original Broadway cast album for West Side Storyand I memorized every song, and it was my favorite musical of my entire life,” Spielberg shared. As for what the three-time Oscar-winning director wanted to bring to the material, Spielberg said he wanted to bring his love. for the legends behind the original 1957 Broadway production – Stephen Sondheim, Leonard Bernstein, Arthur Laurents and Jerome Robbins.
“I also thought that after sixty years, the time had come to come back because it should be shared from generation to generation,” added Spielberg.
Legendary composer Stephen Sondheim, who penned the lyrics to the original Broadway musical, also made an appearance at the 20/20 special, marking his last US television interview before his death on November 26 at the age of 91.
“I was 25 and it was a thrill,” Sondheim shared. “And then to have it out so well. I’m proud of the show. I learned so much from these three guys. It was a crash course in how to write for musical theatre.”
West Side Story marked Sondheim’s Broadway debut 64 years ago. Looking back, Sondheim shared, “Arthur [Laurents, who wrote the musical’s book] had heard my work. So when they were looking for a lyricist, I came across him at a party. He said to me, ‘I’m working on this musical Romeo and Juliet.’ I was not looking for a job. I said, ‘Who does the lyrics?’ He said, ‘Oh, I never thought of you.’ It was more than that. He said, ‘I didn’t like your music very much, but I thought your lyrics were really good,’ so I got the job.”
Something’s Happening: West Side Story broadcast Sunday at 7 p.m. on ABC.
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