Leonard Bernstein (1918-90)
and Stephen Sondheim (b. 1930)
"Something's Coming" from
West Side Story
Holograph piano-vocal score, 1957
My Fair Lady, a big Broadway hit in 1956, turned out to be the
culmination of the Rodgers and Hammerstein tradition and the end
of an era.
West Side Story, staged in 1957, was the beginning of the next.
Never before had dance been such an integral part of the storytelling
of a musical; its tritone-laden score included propulsive Latin
rhythms, angular, jazzy themes, five-part counterpoint, and a tone
row. Based on Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, it was the first musical
tragedy--what other musical ends each act with a dead body on the
"Something's Coming" was born right out of a big long
speech that Arthur wrote for Tony. It said how every morning he
would wake up and reach for something, around the corner or down
the beach. It was very late and we were in rehearsal when Steve
and I realized that we needed a strong song for Tony earlier since
he had none until "Maria," which was a love song. We had to have
more delineation of him as a character. We were looking through
this particular speech, and "Something's Coming" just seemed to
leap off the page. In the course of the day we had written that
The sketches and piano-vocal scores from West Side Story were
among the gifts given to the Library by Bernstein during the 1960s.
In 1992 his children generously donated the rest of the materials,
including his annotated conducting score from the musical, that
form his artistic legacy.