Stephen Whitfield


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West Side Storied

By Stephen Whitfield

West Side Storied
Exactly half a century ago, lyricist and librettist Oscar Hammerstein II went to Washington, D.C., to attend the staging of a new musical that was slated to open in New York. He knew that nothing remotely like this production had ever reached Broadway. Until September 1957, its stages had not normally presented teenage hoodlums embroiled in violence, or exposed the hate crimes stemming from bigotry and nativism, or dropped the curtain on Act I with two corpses, or ended the play with the death of a protagonist still smitten with love. No one more than Hammerstein had so exemplified the affirmative exuberance of American musical theater. After the show, he told its chief creators — choreographer-director Jerome Robbins, composer Leonard Bernstein, lyricist Stephen Sondheim and librettist Arthur Laurents — “Congratulations to all of you. This is an incredible milestone in the theater.”Read More


In the Spotlight

By Stephen Whitfield

This is the fourth in a series of special sections celebrating the 350th anniversary of the arrival of Jews in the United States. In 1932, an aesthete from Iowa named Carl Van Vechten visited Vienna and reported back home that “they don’t play Johann [Strauss] here anymore; it’s all [George] Gershwin and [Irving]Read More






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