Nicolas Ward's Reviews > Something's Coming, Something Good: West Side Story and the American Imagination

Something's Coming, Something Good by Misha Berson
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May 15, 12

bookshelves: non-fiction, broadway, music
Read from April 12 to 14, 2012

This was a Christmas gift this year from my mom. For those who are wondering why I'd receive a book seemingly outside my usual interests, that's probably because you're unaware that I participated a lot in theater up through high school. In 11th grade I played "Baby John" in Breck's production of West Side Story, which was a ton of fun. Parts of the musical are thus pretty ingrained, even almost 15 years later.

As is typical for my non-fiction reads, what I enjoyed the most was the trivia. In this case I was interested in all of the artistic choices that went into the musical, especially when they got into the differences between the original Broadway production and the film version, including some pretty significant differences in song ordering.

One of the interesting and surprising historical anecdotes was that Jerome Robbins was called to testify before HUAC, and named names, thus chilling his relationship with his co-creators. It's striking how pervasive the fear of Communism was at the time.

I think the author was stretching things a bit when trying to make broader cultural claims about the influence of the musical as a reflection of youth culture of the time, but I expect that sort of thing from art critics. I suppose to some extent it confirms that some aspect of the Romeo & Juliet story is pretty timeless.

Overall, it made me a bit nostalgic, missing my participation in theater, even though I doubt I ever had the chops to do it professionally. If you are a fan of this musical, I would definitely recommend reading this book.
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Reading Progress

04/12/2012 page 81
29.0% "More interesting than I expected. Includes some HUAC history of the creators."
04/13/2012 page 143
51.0% "Interesting to see how flexible the ordering of songs was across stagings, and the movie. I forget which version we did in high school. Also, the author is a total nerd - she mentions "beaming down Shakespeare" and the romantic tragedy in Final Fantasy X."
04/14/2012 page 202
72.0% "Interesting details on the various productions and recordings. I'm surprised how clearly I remember some of our junior year production, when I was Baby John."
04/14/2012 page 279
100.0% "Oddly abrupt ending, with some more or less list chapters of various influencers and influences."

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