(Vanessa Thorpe’s article appeared in the Guardian, 9/28.)

 It is regularly judged one of the best musicals of all time, yet West Side Story, with its famous Leonard Bernstein score, came close to being abandoned before it reached an audience.

A new, comprehensive collection of Bernstein's letters, most of which have never been made public before, will reveal next month that the extent of bad feeling between the composer and playwright Arthur Laurents put the whole production in serious jeopardy.

The correspondence, to be published by Yale University Press and edited by British musicologist Nigel Simeone, contains a 1949 letter from Laurents to Bernstein that clearly refers to a recent threat by the composer to pull out of the project. "I'm sorry you've decided not to do the show," writes Laurents, who goes on to observe that "hostility had popped up" between them.


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