Speaker What you said was unequivocally, Jerry is one of the most musical people I've ever met.

Speaker So if that's true, would you tell me how you came to learn that it's it's difficult to describe why how, you know, somebody is musical. It's just that when I would play anything for Jerry, either of my own, or sometimes demonstrating stuff from West Side Story, when Lenny wasn't around, he grasped it immediately. And he only need one hearing to take in all the music. And he could ask you questions or ask you to go back over specific passage after exactly one hearing. And I also know that when I would play him some of my own stuff, he would respond to the rhythms immediately and comment on them, you know, with the kind of insight that somebody else would have to listen to. Somebody else would have to listen to it three or four times before they they they'd grasp what Jerry got right away.

Speaker OK, what's the story? Why was it difficult to get produced?

Speaker Oh, WestStar was not difficult to get to produced. It was turned down by how Prince and Bobby Griffith first cut that it was actually let me think about this so I get it accurate. Jerry and Lenny wanted to have George Abbott produce West Side Story because Jerry was a great admirer of George Abbott and had worked with him. Abbott was mostly a director, but he did occasionally produce. But as he famously said, I don't understand any of the Stravinsky stuff. So having heard some of the music. So then we went to Cheryll Crawford and we had trouble raising money or she had trouble raising money at the beginning. But she had as a cohort, one of her co producers was Roger Stevens, who was well known in the worlds of finance, particularly, and also as a theatrical backer to be the co producer. He wasn't what you call a hands on producer. That is to say, he didn't. He essentially raised money and oversaw the finances of the production. And so it wasn't difficult to get produced. What was difficult was to pin Cheryll and down to a specific date of production. As time went on, we became aware that she was getting more and more hesitant about the producing of it until one day she which was a couple of months before rehearsals were to begin, she called us into her office and announced that she really did not want to go ahead with the production. She felt as she stated it anyway, she felt that we did not explore the reasons for juvenile delinquency. She wanted something more sociologically explicit and which of course, is not the point of the show. It's not a documentary. It's a retelling of Romeo and Juliet. So. We had to find another producer quickly and Arthur put in a phone call. There's a funny incident. We we went near Charles office to the Algonquin Hotel so that Arthur could make a phone call to Roger Stevens, who was in Germany at that point, and say, what do we do next? And they wouldn't let us in because Arthur wasn't wearing a tie. So we went next door to a place called the Iroquois and they're from a phone booth. Arthur called Roger Stevens in Germany and Roger said, I'm for the show, go ahead. Everything, blah, blah, blah. And so we still had a production, but we did not have a producer. And Hal Prince was in Boston trying out a new show called New Girl in Town. And I called him for advice and he said, well, why don't you send us the script? I said, how you turned it down once he said, well, you know, time's gone on. Let's see what you've done with it. And so I actually did not have a complete we all none of us had a complete version of the script because we're still working on sections of it.

Speaker But I cobbled together a a copy and sent it off to Boston. And two days later, or maybe even the next day, Hal called and said, we're wildly excited. It's terrific. We can't wait to produce. It will go in rehearsal the minute we get back to town. We have to concentrate on new girl in town right now. But as soon as New Girl opens, we will concentrate on all our efforts on West Side Story. And that's exactly what they did.

Speaker There were some stops and starts, though, because of all these produced surreal changes, I think. And one of the things that Jerry said at one point was that he felt like ultimately that did the show good because it forces the creative team to go back and keep sort of working at it and make it.

Speaker I have no memory of that. I don't remember that at all. I'm you should check with Arthur on that.

Speaker Maybe his memory is better, but I sure don't remember making any changes except for what we wanted or what you know what? Jerry would ask for something and we would try to satisfy him or we would try to satisfy ourselves.

Speaker The show effectively dispensed with the idea of a singing course and a dance because it all got rolled into one. And how did that affect you?

Speaker And and, um.

Speaker It didn't affect us at all, we just wrote the characters, you know, when you say there's no singing, dancing chorus, in a sense that's true, but in a sense, not each of the Jets had a name and they had lines, but they were treated as as a chorus, as a group, as a singing chorus and a dancing chorus. It's just that they had specific identities. This was something that dated back at least to Agnes Dumbell in Oklahoma when she characterized a couple of the dancers in her choruses. And so what it really meant was that the chorus was the gang and the gang was the chorus. So in a sense, it didn't make any difference at all. We still when we wanted a chorus of duets, it was called All right, the chorus sings only it was called the Jets to sing. So it didn't really affect us at all. That I can tell.

Speaker I guess what I meant was there used to be a group of singers, dancers.

Speaker We usually split. Yes. But by that time, singing and dancing, young performers had to both sing and dance a bit. Again, that started, I think, with Dumbell and some of her demands. And I worked as a gopher on a show called Allegro, and singers had to dance and dancers had to sing in that show.

Speaker So I guess you would say that maybe one side took that a step?

Speaker Yes, West Side, West Side characterized the chorus's specifically as two gangs. And within the gangs, you had dancers who sang and singers who danced, mostly dancers who sang.

Speaker How is it decided that the prologue is going to be danced?

Speaker Well, first we had a number of openings. The very first opening, I think, was a song called Mix. And then we decided that we would have we would set the scene, maybe maybe strike that. I think the very first opening we had was a scene that we contrived where the Jets were sitting around in a clubhouse, goofing off, reading comic books, dancing, joking, bantering and eventually taking an imaginary trip to the moon because space travel was very much in everybody's mind those days. And they took an imaginary trip to the moon and then landed under the under the supervision of their leader riff. And it was all very kid like. And we spent about a month, Lenny and I, writing the whole thing out. And Jerry at the end of it said, you know, I think I could do it better and dance. And so that music, which is now the prologue, was all sung or most of it was anyway, some some of the music that we some some music from from the clubhouse song showed up in the dance at the gym. But much of it was the bass. It was in fact the basis of all the prologue and Jerry dance. And he was right. It established not only did establish it more inventively, but it was less kid like it was a little more gang, like by having the confrontation with the sharks and all that. So that was the first first opening we had. And then, as I say, it was dance. And then we the jet song was sort of appended to that, although that was also part of the music of the clubhouse. It was a song called My Greatest Day, and we changed it to to the Jets.

Speaker So what does it say about the nature of the collaboration among the four of you that you didn't feel proprietary?

Speaker Obviously, about your song you said, oh, OK, well, Jerry was the 500 pound canary in the room. I mean, you know, it was really his demands and he was adamant. Now, we didn't fight him on it because it seemed we understood what he meant. I mean, we were disappointed.

Speaker So we'd spent a long time writing this thing and and we liked it. But we recognized the wisdom of what he was saying, that that it seemed right that you had to have some kind of physical evidence of of coming rumble, that the whole idea of of the two gangs just playing and then getting more and more menacing with each other and more and more and more and more until finally it almost explodes into a rumble right at the start. Seemed like the right way to open it rather than this. Comic. Kid like opening, so I think if we had disagreed, I don't know what the confrontation usually we found a third solution.

Speaker You know, when when you're in a collaboration, you find if if there's real contention, you find a third way of doing it that satisfies everybody. But in this case, it was not a fight.

Speaker Do you remember how the transition to the gym scene came about?

Speaker Oh, my goodness.

Speaker It was an accident.

Speaker I do know that the streamers came down at another point and Jerry said, hey, wait a minute, that would make the transition. It was serendipitous that I know. I can't tell you exactly.

Speaker Yeah, it was one of those I'd forgotten how to take advantage. Yes. Yes. Oh, no. Well, no. And I probably wouldn't have been very dramatic anyway. It was you know, obviously, it was during it was during the tech rehearsal. And, you know, he just said, hey, let's try that as the transition. You know, it wasn't a big dramatic eureka moment.

Speaker I can't get it exactly from anybody. But I think he was sort of headed out of the theater or something and turned around and saw the streamers and the previous.

Speaker Oh, that's possible. Oh, what is looking back on it now, you have a lot of perspective.

Speaker What's your assessment of West Side Story as a theater piece? I think it's wonderful. I'm not very pleased with my own work, but I as a piece, it's terrific for me. It's not about juvenile delinquency or any socio political thing. That's merely the story. What it's about. It's about the theater and how you can combine music and dance and lyrics and dialogue into what amounts to, as they say, a seamless whole.

Speaker And I think West Side Story does that very well. I don't think it opened any doors for any other shows. It was merely a demonstration of the theater arts, that sort of some construct, as Lenny would say, and.

Speaker I would like seeing it, I always blush at my own work, little.

Speaker Oh, you blush alone, think, um.

Speaker So when you say it's. You don't feel it has an importance in musical theater history?

Speaker No, I don't. I can't think of any show that was directly influenced by partly because the content dictates form and the content of West Side Story dictated that particular form. It's a dance heavy form. There were, you know, the integration of all the elements of musical. It started earlier. That was really the Rodgers and Hammerstein revolution. That was in fact, I think it's the Hammerstein revolution because I think it really started with Showboat, but an attempt to tell a serious story through song and dialogue and that they would support and intermingle as opposed to being separate entities had begun long, long ago. This is, I think, more of an apotheosis of that.

Speaker So it's I see it as part of a development. It's just a supreme example of the development and it's an outstanding example of the development, but it's in the development of kind of total theater work. And so I view it as part of a stream.

Speaker No, people who aren't in the theater, I think don't have a clear idea sometimes about what a director of musicals does. They sometimes think it's sort of traffick. Mm hmm. So could you tell us what Jerry's contribution was?

Speaker Well, you know, some directors are traffic cops, and that's not a bad thing. It depends on what kind of piece you have. You know, in straight plays particularly, you don't want the director interfering and showing off his inventions. You know, the invention should be in the service of the script in a musical. Also, the director should be in the service of the piece more than the script, the script and the songs. But because it's presentational, straight plays are not presentational. Musicals are directly out front and and pandering to the audience, so to speak. Pandering is an unfair word, but I mean, it is direct address to the audience and that means the director is constantly present. You're aware that people are being directed because it is not. So-called naturalistic, Gerri, of course, what what a director of a musical does is have some kind of, well, certain directors anyway, like Hal Prince and Jerry Robbins, they have a mesons, a total vision of the whole evening. And and they work towards servicing not only the piece, but the total vision of the piece. That's also true, I suppose, of straight plays. But in the case of Jerry, because he was a master of movement, he could use the actors in the scenery and the lights the way he did in a ballet so that it had an extra poetic dimension. He was less successful at directing actors and luckily in West Side Story, you don't need actors, you need performers.

Speaker So how would you describe this confusion?

Speaker Well, his contribution was the fact that the seed of the idea was his and that the that he made the stage.

Speaker He used movement, not just choreography, but movement to tell the story and.

Speaker I mean.

Speaker I don't know what else I could say that he would contribute. How would you describe him as a collaborator?

Speaker Ah, he was he was a very good collaborator, except when you tried to argue a point with him, he was frightened of articulate people. And though he was much more articulate himself than he gave himself credit for, he would the collaboration would cease.

Speaker As soon as you started to try logic on him, you had to you had to talk instinctively. You had to talk about the theatrical stuff. He loved to talk theory and he loved to talk the socio political aspects and all that. But you couldn't use that with him. He as a collaborator.

Speaker He was an idea man, Jerry, Jerry is the only genius I've ever met and my definition of genius being endless invention. He never stopped inventing, even if if I used to have game parties, he would come down, he would invent games on the spot that were more interesting than the games that people play. He was extraordinary and but the inventiveness did not necessarily come through the mouth. It sometimes just came through what he did on the stage. And that was what was exciting, because you could pick up on ideas from him and go home and want to write. The problem was the invention also got in the way of writing because you could go home and write something and then you bring to say, yeah, but supposing it was all backwards, then you'd have to go and do it again. Then you bring it back and say, that's very good, but supposing it's all yellow, then you go back differently. And that's that came, I think, because that's what a choreographer does. He experiments with the bodies during rehearsal and said, oh, no, keep your hand up there. All right. No, no, try lowering that. He's able to explore every possibility as a choreographer. Well, he did the same thing with our work with with the songs and with the script, trying to get us to explore every avenue. Well, you can't explore every avenue. You have to settle for something. And so but that's that's one of the reasons it always took a long time to get a Jerry Robbins show on.

Speaker So do you think before that he did or did not in this method bring out the best in his collaborators?

Speaker Oh, I think he did. I mean, difficult as he was to work with. And, you know, he could be really mean and awful. Man, I would work with him any time. It's just it's worth it. The end product is worth it. He does get not only the best out of you, he makes some of his invention rubs off on you. You get more inventive when you work with Jerry Robbins.

Speaker Um, Jonquiere said, until you've been in a room with Jerry, you don't know what a taskmaster is that. Was that your experience?

Speaker Well, he was just demanding, that's all. You know, he would be very insistent on certain points. Um, no. I mean, there's a time where you just you just say, that's it, Jerry. That's the best I can do. And if he if he's grumpy about it, then he's going to be about it, you know? And one of the things that was good was that one of the very few people who is able to stand up to Jerry fearlessly was Arthur Laurents. In fact, that the two people I, I know and having worked with who had no fear of Jerry were Arthur and Julie Stein, if anything, Jerry was afraid of them. So Arthur very much kept. Lenny was easily intimidated by Jerry, and I saw many examples of it. But Arthur was not and therefore kept the writing team strong. I think it would have taken longer to write West Side Story of Arthur. Hadn't been the guy said, no, Jerry, that's it. That's what we want.

Speaker Otherwise, because I would have succumbed, well, I was only 25 years old, but, you know, Lenny, who I, you know, commanded huge forces, you know, as conductor and world figure, the minute Jerry would start doing that Jerry stuff, I watched Lenny melt like a lemon drop.

Speaker That must have been hard.

Speaker Oh, it was terrible, it was terrible. There was one point and in Washington where Jerry, who was dissatisfied with the orchestration, had complained Lennie. Lennie kept the orchestration the way he wanted it. It was it was the song somewhere. And Lenny had written it in a certain way. And Irv said said Raymond Irv Costel had orchestrated the way when he wanted to orchestrate it and Jerry didn't like it. And Lenny said, Well, I do. And when he didn't change it during dress rehearsal or tech rehearsal, I guess. Anyway, the orchestra was in the pit, I think was dress rehearsal.

Speaker Lenny Jerry went down and in front of the orchestra and Lenny sitting out front. He changed the orchestration. He just started to dictate, said, I don't want that instrument there, take that rhythm out right. To the players in the orchestra. It was completely humiliating. And I expect there to be some kind of big fight. There wasn't. Lenny left the theater.

Speaker And what did he do after that?

Speaker He went to the nearest bar.

Speaker And I looked around, he was gone, I thought I go outside seepages outside, he wasn't I just had an instinct and he was sitting there in the booth in the bar with a few shots of scotch lined up. He just couldn't. Couldn't, and I knew I couldn't either. But, you know, I was a kid, so I thought, hey, he's Leonard Bernstein. He should be able to stand up to Jerry Robinson. Nobody could stand because Jerry was was ruthlessly mean in contentious situations. You know, he was he was a dirty fighter and he had an instinct for weakness. He knew exactly what how to get to you. The minute he shook your hand, I think he something a little cash register clicked in the back of his head and he said, I know, OK, that guy's afraid of rats. That guy's afraid of dogs. If I have trouble with that guy, I'll bring out a rat truck with that guy. I'll bring out a dog. He just had an instinct for it.

Speaker The only way I ever found to deal with it was to make it work.

Speaker Yes, the jury had one of the best senses of humor ever, as you can see in his work, too. Also, the thing that must be said, and I'm sure many of the people you've spoken to have said is that after six o'clock, Jerry was the best company in the world. He was only awful during working hours and he switched off at 6:00. And I would like another Jerry came out. You must have experience and you would have spent an evening with him. And he was he was just great company and giggly and gossipy. And you had no idea of he was truly a Jekyll and Hyde, truly. You had no idea the Hyde was hidden, no pun intended.

Speaker Um.

Speaker Yet another quote, you said he had style and substance, but he also knew how to turn it into entertainment, your way of dealing with the high and the low.

Speaker Well, Jerry had a very good instinct for the audience. And in musical theater, he always had the audience in mind. I don't know if that was true in what I would call a serious work, meaning the choreography, choreography, but he certainly had one foot planted in in the audience. So both the high art part of him, the part that really cared about artistic excellence, was always engaged with the part that said that's too slow. They're not getting that. We need a laugh there. We got to have a button on that number, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. He may have thought that way or choreographically, because I don't know how choreographers think, but I do know that buttons were just as important to him as the artistic intention of the evening. And he knew that musical theater is popular art and without condescending to the audience, he always had them in mind. That's what I mean by he always had entertainment going on. He always cared about the audience.

Speaker Did you find him to be a decisive worker or not?

Speaker He was a very decisive worker once he had a deadline. You know, there's the famous moment where the set didn't go off stage far enough for the dream ballet in the second act out of Washington, and we had an audience of 1500 people coming in the next night. And this was the dress rehearsal. And we thought it's a disaster because the bedroom set was supposed to disappear. And then all the cloud formations and the and the ballet would start and they all have their dreams. And there was part of a bedroom sticking out, which rather spoil the illusion. Jerry said, I thought, what are we going to do? What are we going to if I if I'd been, I would have panicked and said postpone the previews. He said, give me a saw. He didn't say it that way, but he got he got Ruth Mitchell, the stage manager, to get a saw, saw the set in half. And Oliver Smith, you know, was having conniption fit. His beautiful set was being sore. Now, Jerry said, we'll fix it after tomorrow night, Oliver. But for tomorrow night, I want to clear stage for the ballet. So the bedroom split in half and went off. And that's a practical man of the theater. On the other hand, getting Jerry to commit to a date of rehearsal or something like that, he just hated to be put in that position where he would have to make decisions at a given date, which is why he founded his own dance studio downtown on 19th Street, because he could prepare a piece for a year and a half and there was no deadline in those cases. He he wouldn't make decisions at all. He did what I spoke about earlier, which is he would try things many different ways because he could afford to do them because it was his own time paid for by government money. If you're working, you know, in the commercial theater, you have to make the decisions, and he could certainly do that when he had to. I think that's one of the reasons that he was thrown off of the movie West Side Story was you can't do that when you're making a movie. You have to make the decisions because it costs money to to postpone the decision and try something else. You can't do that. And I mean, somebody told me nameless name, nameless, connected with a movie, said that after two weeks of shooting, they were three weeks behind.

Speaker But it was but when he was there, oh, man, nobody was better than Jerry, you can really see by watching the movie when he was there. Oh, yeah. Yeah. Um, so since you told us you were 45, you must have learned a couple of things from. Story. Mm hmm. Oh, well, first you.

Speaker If I had to take away one lesson from West Side, apart from the practicality of, you know, you can be an artist with a capital A. But you got to be practical. It was the necessity to have staging in mind when you write a song. I mean, when Lenny and I had finished writing Maria, Lenny had to go off someplace, I think, to conduct. And so I had to play the song for Jerry and I did. And he said, so. So what is Tony doing during the song? I said, Well, he's singing about this girl he's just met. Jerry said, no, what is he doing? I said, Well, I guess he's walking to Maria's apartment. I don't know. Maybe the set is changing. Jerry said, you stage it. What he was telling me is have specific staging in mind. When you write something that you can give a director, don't just hand the director a song. And it was a major lesson. Every song I've written ever since, I have very specific staging in mind that I can tell the director and then the director can ignore it and often does. But it gives him a blueprint or a springboard, whatever word you want to use to start staging a number. But you can't. Its director has to. If he has to think of something from scratch, it's much more difficult. But if you say, OK, Tony is walking to Maria's apartment and the set is changing, the director said, I can't change the set that way. But you know what I can do? We can have a lighting change there. But at least he knows that Tony is walking to Maria's apartment now that maybe built into the situation in this particular case. But often you write particularly ballads and they're just ballads. So you better have something like she's smoking a cigarette. She doesn't look at him in the face. Whatever you want to point out, it doesn't even have to be specific. Like she sits in the chair there, although I will often do that, you know, punctuate whatever the set is with. You know, I'd say I think on this chord she can turn upstage or just something for the director to to to move from. And unless the specific actions, of course, many times you write a song and the actions built into the lyric, but what he was saying is give a director some help.

Speaker It's interesting because it's also a way of getting a collaborator to think somehow choreographically. Yes. In the idea of unity.

Speaker Yes, it is. And up until that point, I had never really thought in terms of staging. I just had a general idea, you know. You know, they're sitting around a clubhouse.

Speaker But but after after Maria, you know. I was able to. Articulate some way what's going on in the song.

Speaker Um, what do you remember about that story opening night on Broadway?

Speaker It's unfortunately what I remember about West Side Story of being on Broadway has nothing to do with that story. It has to do with my family. So I can't. The major thing is, of course, the audience sat there for 30 minutes in complete silence, as if they were at a temple of art because they read out of town reviews. And this was supposed to be a work of art capital, w capital. They totally ignored the fact that it was a show. It is. Anyway, you look at it. I don't care what you think of it. It's a musical theater piece. It's a show. And not until America woke them up.

Speaker America, they said, oh, that's a dance. No. Oh, look, they're twirling their skirts. Oh, look, they're singing. Oh, they're funny lyrics. Oh.

Speaker Then they remembered that it was a show up until that point. It was a work of art and it was deadly.

Speaker Do you remember anything about the the when the curtain came down again? No. To what do you attribute the show's success?

Speaker It's enjoyable. I mean, what what makes that any popular work of art popular over a period of time gives you a good time?

Speaker And the fact that it's celebrating its fiftieth anniversary and Stonecrest, Oklahoma's older and produced much more the West Side Story.

Speaker You don't think there is anything specific to us?

Speaker No.

Speaker Sure, you influenced in your line of work by having done it.

Speaker Gosh, I.

Speaker Outside of what I've just said, I mean, just those little lessons. I learned to be less square, I think, musically from working with Lenny. I learned something about economy and subtext from Arthur. I learned about staging from Jerry and I, you know, with just general lessons, but certainly nothing specific.

Speaker What was the creative team's response to the box?

Speaker Oh, well, it's Jerry insisted on having a box around his name, Arthur got I mean, if I'm allowed to say pissed off on television, Arthur got pissed off and paid Jerry back by putting a line in about it in Gypsie, which, you know, two insiders got and laughed. Leny being one of them. Lenny, I think, was the opening night of Gypsie. And when the line came and they put a box around our name, says Hurby to Turow's, there was one laugh in the audience that always allowed one.

Speaker Before we leave West Side Story, is there anything else you'd like to share with us about? The experience of Jerry in particular.

Speaker No, I think I've said it all. I think, you know, when I when I free associate about Jerry, I think about the endless invention, I think about that given a lesson. I think about the Jekyll and Hyde Miss.

Speaker And I think about the thrill of seeing the work, I remember he in those days, he saw later, but he wouldn't let anybody in while he was staging. And, you know, it's my first show and I went to the first day of rehearsal and he wouldn't let me in and but he wouldn't let Arthur in or Lenny. And it wasn't just me. He didn't really like people seeing him work. So the first time I saw a piece of work, you know, the first time he let us in to show us something. And I think it may have been the opening. I'm not sure it was. You know, I virtually I think I did cry. It was just so glorious, even in a rehearsal hall, to see what Jerry does.

Speaker I mean, it's just it is so far above anybody else who's ever worked in movement, in the musical theater at a consistent level. I got that kind of thrill also from working with Michael Bennett. But Jerry was the first experience. And at that point there was nobody who had that kind of imagination. People like Michael, what people like that weren't very many people like Michael. But much of what Michael did was, I think, directly influenced by Jerry, by the attitude, by how you use movement in the theater to tell a story.

Speaker You said at one point, I think that he was the best. Danger if you did, Jerry.

Speaker Oh, sure. Repeat that. Oh, yeah, no, Jerry was not only wonderful choreographer. He he was he was the best stager of numbers. An example being I remember when most thrilling numbers I ever saw in a theater was there once was a man, a pajama game, and it was sung by two people who could move. And they were in one and they did nothing but hand and foot gestures, and I mean, I was cheering at the end of it. It was so brilliantly worked out. And I bet it didn't take him five minutes because he stayed. We kept asking, please, would you stage Krupke, please, with the stage geophysical gee, Officer Krupke. And he can't get around or I'll get around to it. But he was much more concerned with his so-called serious work. He wanted to get the second act ballet in shape and the rumble and all that. He worked on all the big pieces. And finally, you know, it was about two minutes before opening. He said, all right, all right, all right. And in one afternoon, he stage gyoza creped. You know, that's the kind of staging the you know, the inventiveness of that staging. That's what I mean by the endless flow. It was like a fresh set of ideas. And he staged that number in about three hours.

Speaker You know, I think recollection that. After you wrote Krupke, did you go to rehearsal to play it for him, and was Krupke written because he asked for a comic?

Speaker No, no, that's another song. No, it's a song called Like Everybody Else. He he wanted to have a comic trio for the three sort of misfits in the gang, Arab and Baby John and anybodies. And we wrote one and we were about to put it in in Washington tryout. And Arthur gave an eloquent speech saying that it tipped the first act over in a musical comedy, which I think I think it did actually the most inventive moment I had with Jerry was the opening of Funny Thing Happened, went in the forum. We were out of town and he came in to help us because the show was floundering and he staged comedy tonight. Now, he asked me to write that kind of number. He said, Steve, don't tell any jokes. Let me do the jokes. Just give me a background to do jokes. And he came up within in a week with, oh, one of the two, three best opening numbers in the history of the theater.

Speaker Gypsy, tell me a little bit about the development as it concerns Gerri, because it was developed in a very different way.

Speaker Yeah, Gipped Gypsy essentially was a writer's project, Arthur and Julie Stein and I wrote it essentially. And then Jerry, who'd been in Hollywood making a movie, came in and heard it. And that was that he had very little input in into the writing, which, you know, Gypsy was written very swiftly and would never have been written that swiftly if Jerry had been in from the beginning. But Jerry was stuck with a deadline of a rehearsal and he couldn't be in. The whole show was written in between September and February. So and I don't remember what month he came back, but we'd written most of it. And so he wasn't able to interfere very much that way.

Speaker He wanted to have a kind of panoply of vaudeville acts, panoply, I guess, panoply of vaudeville acts throughout the show. And that went by the wayside. Outside of that.

Speaker I can't think of anything that pertains to the writing at some point you in or through anything went to London and that was for West Side Story of West Side Story.

Speaker It was it was trying out, not trying out. It was out of town and Manchester in 1958.

Speaker And Arthur and I went over here and I think you played here. Oh, yes.

Speaker Well, we were in a we'd written Everything's Coming Up Roses and. So I played it for him one night after the after the address, I guess, of West Side Story in Manchester, and there was a piano in the lounge of the hotel. And so I played for him and I finished. And Arthur liked the song very much, allied it to and Jerry didn't seem all that pleased. He said, everything's coming up roses. What I said, Jerry, if one other person makes that error, I will change the title. But the fact is, it took me a week to find that title and I'm not. Give it enough that easy.

Speaker So by that time, you're a little older than twenty five.

Speaker Yes, that are disturbed by this time I was 28, I have made a big difference.

Speaker There wasn't really much dance in Gypsy, you know. So can you explain what Jerry did?

Speaker No, he just again, I mean, apart from what every director does, which is put it on the stage and give it a, you know, some kind of visual frame and all that, Jerry's major contributions were theatrical touches, some of which are brilliant, like the crossover where the kids grow up. That was not Arthur's and mine and Julia's idea. That was Jerry's idea. The business of Louise facing upstage to an invisible audience and then starting her stripped down stage that the reverse that thing, the way she came out into the darkness and stood in front of the mirror and realized that she was a girl and a pretty girl at that. That is the kind of thing that Jerry contributed uniquely. The rest of it any director could have contributed except for these few touches which nobody else could have contributed. But website could have been gypsy, could have been directed by anybody, the rest of it.

Speaker Um. We know Jerry could be difficult, more difficult.

Speaker I don't know, demanding to know what you want to call it, but you remember the story about the famous teapot story. Mm hmm. Can you just do what you remember about that?

Speaker Well, I haven't yet. But other people tell you this.

Speaker Uh, there's one person. But I'm curious.

Speaker OK. All right. Um. We all were very fond. Of a girl who'd been West Side Story named Carol D'Andrea, and she was cast as June the grown up in danger, and we decided in Philadelphia that she simply couldn't sing well enough and we had to replace her. And Jerry agreed. But it really broke his heart as much as ours. And he was he was, of course, the one who had to fire. And she was replaced by a girl named Laine Bradbury. And, Gerri, as was consistent with every show he did on every show, I mean, for West Side, certainly he always picked one boy and one girl to beat up on all this hostility would go to one where, in the case of West Side Story was Mickey Callaghan, who played Riff. And I don't remember which girl it was. I know who was in the London company, but I can't remember who wasn't. And in this case, his anger at himself, at the situation, he turned it on to Lane Bradbury and made life as difficult for her as possible. When we got to previews in New York, the scene in the Chinese restaurant required her to be sitting at the table with Rose and Louise and and Herbie and to move a teapot so that or to move something so that Rose could put down a teapot to clear space on the table. She forgot to do it first preview. And Jerry was furious and Baldor out and was very angry. And I think she unfortunately forgot to do it second night, too. Well, shortly after the restaurant scene occurs, the audition number for Grand Cigar, the cow number and the end of the cow number, it requires her to turn up stage and take two struts out of the back of the train. There's a little toy train there and use them as batons and twirl them and do a split, which is exactly what she did as a little girl. And on tonight, that's another thing, Jerry, staging the vaudeville numbers, which was absolutely brilliant. Again, something no other director could have done, but. Right. So, Lane, Brer Rabbit forgot to do what I was standing the back. And Jerry, I could see him just his entire body got tense and he went backstage. I wonder what he was going to do and when a few minutes later, when the number came to finale to a to a climax and Len turned up stage, there were no struts. And she was stuck in front of an audience of 15 to 100, 2000 people with nothing to do for the finale except to have to pretend that it was a humiliating, embarrassing moment. Like an actor forgetting his lines, Jerry had gone backstage and told Ruth Mitchell, the stage manager, to take the struts out, and Ruthie, who was a strong woman but as afraid of Jerry as anybody else. And also she was sort of Jerry stage manager, Jerry had brought her into Hal Prince's fold. That's how she became a coproducer with it. She owed a great deal to Jerry. So she did what he asked, which is she should not have done. But I can't blame her as much as I blame him. And that kind of cruelty is fairly mind boggling.

Speaker Now, I understand at one point he decided that little lamb should come out.

Speaker Yes, well, OK, Jerry. Jerry didn't like Little Lamb and partly again, because Lane Bradbury had a solo number. Part of it was he just didn't want or, you know, he just wanted her to suffer because she would replace Carol.

Speaker And one second, because that means no. That's Gypsys. No.

Speaker Oh, I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. Sorry. I forgot a race at a race. At a restaurant. No, no, sorry. No, no. You know, now and I'll I'll tell you, I was mixing up with another thing, too, which is when when Sandra's boob fell out of her father and Jerry blamed her for that. And so he didn't like her either. But but it wasn't the same things like that. That's all a story now. Sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry. Yeah, OK, scratch it. All right. So he wanted he didn't want a little lamb that originally little lamb was in the middle of the Goldstone. No, there was a chorus or two of Mr. Goldstone and then the light switch to Louise alone with her animals and she sang The Lamb and then it went back to Mr. Goldstone. And that didn't work. And I think it was at that point that Jerry said, Let's cut little lamb.

Speaker And.

Speaker I can't remember the exact sequence of events because certainly the notion of doing all of Goldstone and then all of little lamb occurred, but it may have occurred later.

Speaker The point was he just took it out and without permission of the author, it's because we didn't want to do it. And we call the Drama Guild, which is the Protective Society for Writers, and threatened an injunction against the show because it's a breach of contract terms of contract. It's very clear on authors rights being protected. And so he said, all right, then you'll have to stage it. And that's exactly what Arthur did. So think as I remember, my memory is Arthur staged it.

Speaker Now, tell me about Rose's turn, because I think that you were involved in how well what happened was we were originally there were three Luis's and three Jeunes, and Jerry wanted what he called a kaleidoscopic ballet at the climax of the show in which Rose would have a complete kind of. Nightmarish replay of her life all danced by the three Luis's, the three Jeunes Hurby, etc., not unlike the ballet in the second act, a west side. Except wasn't that kind of a dream of life. And it was her life flashing before her eyes. And about two weeks before rehearsals, he said he didn't have time to do it. He said, I just don't have time to direct the show and do that. That's a major dance piece. So why don't you guys write a song that you can sing instead?

Speaker So.

Speaker We were in the middle of rehearsals and I said, can we talk about it a little bit about what it should be about? And he said, sure, after the rehearsal tonight. And so we agreed to meet at the end of the rehearsal, but Julie couldn't. Julie had a date. And so it was just me and Jerry. And this was at the top of the New Amsterdam theater where there's rehearsal space, which used to be a theater for Ziegfeld, called for the Ziegfeld Midnight Frolics. So it's a stage and seats. I mean, I doubt if it exists now, but it's existed in nineteen fifty eight and.

Speaker So I met with Jerry there, and it was very dramatic to me because I was I was brought up on movies and the whole idea of, you know, you write your piano concerto when you're sitting in your penthouse overlooking the lights of New York. Same thing here. I like Mickey and Judy. Here you are in in a darkened auditorium with just a work light on stage. And Jerry Robbins.

Speaker And I said, look, Julie can't make it. He said, well, let's why don't we try ad libbing something anyway? And so we started ad libbing. He said, give me some strip music. So I said, look, the whole idea, it seems to be the number, if you want it to include all the people in Rose's life, why don't we include all the songs that she has had anything to do with in the show and use them and mash them together and make this number.

Speaker And he said, great, you. And so I started to ad lib something and he started to walk like a stripper back and forth across stage, like rose stripping, you know, like Ethel stripping. And we started to ad lib this number and I started to put the various themes together. And by we must worked about two hours. And by the end of it, I had a whole sketch of the whole piece and a great state of excitement went to Julie the next day and I said. It's solved, it's solved, it's solved and. So we did it and the rest of that story as we presented it to Ethel. Jerry said, Will you play for Ethel because he thought it was well, we said, Sure. Well, we played for Ethel who were still in rehearsal, and it was Ethel and the whole company. So it wasn't just Ethel. But in those days, I had plenty of confidence about singing in front of people like that, first time trying them around. And we were nervous about what Ethel would think. And I had used a moment in it where she stumbles on the word mama and she starts to stammer, which is actually a moment I stole from from Tennessee Williams, from Streetcar Named Desire. When Blanche, his mind starts to crack and she starts to stammer. I don't know whether it's written into the play, but when I saw the play, that's what Jessica Tandy did. And so I thought I'd use that stammer. And so he played it. And I got the stammering moment when it was all over.

Speaker Ethel said, well, it's sort of more of an aria than a song, isn't it? I said, Yeah, it's it, but it's still a song. It's all it's all the tunes you've been singing all evening long. Ethel said, Yeah, yeah, I know, I get that. But that mama mama stuff, I mean, is that on the downbeat or is that on the upbeat? And I said, well, you see, no, it's written so you can do it any way you wish. It's really an acting moment. And Milton, that's the conductor, will keep the vamp going. And one night you might want to go, mama, and another night you might want to go, Mama, Mama. But whatever you want to do, she said, Oh, but is it on the upbeat or the downbeat?

Speaker That's that's the Rose's turn story.

Speaker Tough Jerry, work with her.

Speaker I wasn't around when whenever he was alone with her. I can't tell you. My guess is he just deferred her. He was you know, he wanted to do the show because he wanted to work with the star.

Speaker Did he ever talk to you about his mother? No. Um, tell me about a gimmick whose idea was gimmick and what was Jerry's part in turning that into the number it became?

Speaker Um, I have no memory of how it arose, shows written so quickly, I think we just got to the to the moment and there were strippers and Louise had to learn something about the notion of a striptease and the way she learned it was seeing everybody do something blatantly different except exactly the same. And then she realizes or certainly rather the whole idea is you tease, you don't strip it, you don't bump and grind. You promised to bump and grind and you don't do it. And so that's what the numbers about. I think, you know, as I look back and I think I probably thought we need some variety, you know, we've had Ethel sing a lot and Louise sing a bit and Ethel sing a lot. And the Hollywood, you know, you needed some other voice, voices, some of the characters, but. I'm not sure anyway, it just seemed a logical thing to write, and then when we were auditioning strippers for I mean, song had been written and we auditioning strippers and in came Faith Dane with her trumpet. And that was part of her act. And Jerry appropriated it. The others, he invented himself. I mean, I my guess is my memory is that Arthur named the strippers after Jerry. Well, Tassi, Toure, I think he named because that had nothing to do with his trip but Elektra and the whole idea of the electric lights, I don't know which came first, the name or the notion, it's it's conceivable that the name came first. But my guess is that the most generous, but I really don't remember.

Speaker But there's nothing particularly special about in my memory of nothing special in my memory of writing that song, except for when faith came in and auditioned.

Speaker It was just.

Speaker So here's a question, number one, since I was 10. Wow, so did Mazeppa get the name because it rhymes with oh no, no, no.

Speaker I was Arthur. I was Arthur. No, Arthur. I was Arthur. No joke. Mazeppa Revolution in Dance, which through Arthur has one of his greatest talents is for names and those names, Tessitore and Mazeppa and Elektra.

Speaker I mean, that's really, really wonderful. No, no. It was just lucky. So you came up with of course, but it was just lucky.

Speaker OK, so you've talked about Jerry having a sense of vaudeville and showbiz and, um, do you think that had to do or what do you think that had to do with his training at Tamiment?

Speaker Goodness gracious. I don't know. I only was up at Tamiment once and not as a writer, but to visit.

Speaker And I was, you know, long past the Jerry Jerry era. So I have no idea. I do know that one thing that everybody wound up attachment was how to put on a different show every week. So that whole thing of getting, as I say, Jerry's powers of invention, he could have gone on three shows a week, but most people can't. And that was that's the great training of talent and green mansions is that that you had to do it every week.

Speaker OK, I'm going to ask you a question about your assessment of Gypsy. I'll read you something quickly. Tienen Cantine wrote this, he said, is about Gypsy brings together an effortless coalition. All the parts of the American musical stage, their highest point of development. So smooth is the blending of skills, so precise of speech and dance. It's like being president, the triumphant solution of some harsh architectural problem. The finished structure seems as light as an explanation, though. In fact, it is earthquake. We do not agree.

Speaker He liked the show, I liked the show, too, he liked the show.

Speaker Well, OK, so it's known as the perfect musical who's who called it the perfect musical man. You'll have to forgive me. Who ever called it? No, I didn't say it, though. Well, earthquake.

Speaker I felt the earthquake, but that's not the same thing. Well, what do you perfect know where where's perfection? You know, I could think I can think of shows I think are just as perfect as Egypti. I can think of shows just as perfect as Gypsy, in my opinion, but but it's you know, I don't there's nothing I would want to change in Gypsy.

Speaker Well, that's pretty strong. Yeah.

Speaker Um, assuming your work is informed by everything you did before, what did you learn from Gypsie?

Speaker Gosh. I suppose that was the show where I learned more about subtext because it really was about character. W that's not about character. It's also about something, something subtle about the difference between plays and musicals. Because I remember saying to Arthur, listen, what you're writing is so strong, I don't know why this shouldn't be a play. Why, why, why should it be musical? He said, oh no, no. If I were writing it as a play, it would be written with much more subtlety. He said, I'm writing very, very bold colors and very bold strokes. And and he's right, of course. And it was something I didn't realize as we were working on it.

Speaker But as soon as he pointed out and that also was sank in with me, the difference between a play in a musical in the writing, and I can't articulate it, but I can I can recognize it.

Speaker OK, so before we get off Gypsie, anything else you want to say no.

Speaker What else do we have to do? Because it's getting a little. We're almost done. We talked a little bit about. Um.

Speaker All right. Anything else about Gypsie? The trouble is, I've told this story so many times that my mind is blocked off to any other members. But, you know, the fact is, when I think of Gypsy, I don't think of Jerry. When I think of Gypsy, I think of Arthur. When I think of West Side, I think of Jerry and I. So I think that's it. Gypsy is an Arthur show. West Side is a Jerry show that doesn't that's not decrying any of the rest of our contributions. But the the piston for West Side was Jerry and the Pistons for Gypsy was Arthur.

Speaker Understand that. So before we get off for him, then, you talked a little bit. Yeah. Tell me how specific he was in telling you what he needed.

Speaker Oh, he said the trouble with the opening number, we had no money, no clothes in the air. He said the trouble with the opening number is it doesn't prepare the audience for what the show is about. It doesn't say this is going to be low comedy, baggy pants comedy. You got to write a song called Baggy Pants. I said I did. I wrote a song called Forget War, which told the audience exactly what the show is going to be. And George Abbott said, I don't like it, I can't hold the tune. So then I wrote another song, which was Love is in the Air, which is a charmer and led the audience into thinking they were going to have a charming evening, did not prepare them for the wildest folly.

Speaker And as Oscar Hammerstein taught me, the opening number is where you make or break a show that is say, if if the old number is wrong, it takes a very long time to recover. But at the opening number is right, you can coast for a very long time. Well, this was a case where the opening number, which perfectly nice opening, was entirely wrong. And so I said I wrote one. He said, well, you can't use it because George doesn't like it. So write another one of the same sort. But just don't tell any jokes. Let me do the jokes. That's what I did. I wrote it over virtually every night. I think we met on Friday and I handed it to him Sunday.

Speaker It has specific what all he said was just right.

Speaker He said, yes, yes, just tell the audience that it's going to be low comedy mistake. And he kept using the word baggy pants. Which means vaudeville comedy.

Speaker But he didn't give you he didn't say, you know, tell them it's going to be something like this or something like that.

Speaker No, no, no. I actually I had written I mean, one of my sketches for the opening number was called A Funny Thing Happened the way to the Forum. A funny thing happened the way to the forum. Some baby got kidnapped on the way to the forum. Some pirates came in on the way to the forum and mistook his wife made on the way to the forum. I'd already sketch that kind of thing out, but what he wanted was something very general about baggy pants. Which, in fact, was what forget war was about.

Speaker No, he had a sort of checkered relationship with form, didn't he?

Speaker Oh, yes. Yeah, well, yes, it was shovelers idea. And it was right after West Side Story and Berts. I wanted to write something with Bert and he said, Well, have you ever read Plautus plays? And I said, no. And Bert gave me the Lobed library translation's, which were. Deadly, and I said, I don't. He said, no, no, don't don't look at the profile, just look at what they're about. And he said, I think we could mash a few of the plays together in England. And I mentioned it, Jerry. Jerry said, that sounds great. He obviously wanted to do something entirely different than the West Side Story. Because we started this before Gypsie, and so he said he'd be interested, so Burt invited Larry Gelbart to join the project. They wrote they wrote the book together and Jerry said he'd do it, but he kept postponing the date and postponing the date and postponing the date and postponing the date.

Speaker And eventually he chickened out. And then we got George Abbott. There was a point in there where Josh Logan was going to direct it. When we brought it to him after Jerry chickened out and then we brought it to George.

Speaker And how was it going with George before you called Jerry?

Speaker It was fine, I was not the fan of George Abbott than many people were, you know. Wee wee, it sounds mean to say, but we had to explain jokes to him. Maybe the funniest joke in the show.

Speaker Strange little boys Burton-Taylor had to act it out for him. He was what he was wonderful at was running the ship. There were there were some difficult moments during rehearsal when Jerry got in and Jerry in zero had had a history together. They behaved very well with each other. But zero took his anger out on me instead of on Jerry. And there was a disruption rehearsal when we got to New York. And George Abbott just I would tell the story because it involves some filthy language. But George just stopped the contention right there, said, let's take all this up, just cool the atmosphere. He was a great captain. And he also, I must say, he did say we were in the back of the theatre in New Haven and the show was a disaster and the audience wasn't laughing. And George Abbott, as you know, was a famous play doctor. People would call him in to help out on both straight plays and musicals all the time because he was such a savvy showman. And we're standing in the back. And I heard George murmur. I don't know what to do. We'll have to call in George Albert.

Speaker So whose idea was it to go in during one?

Speaker And can you say that or and how was it received or how did the actual call? I said to help call Jerry and how did and how would have to tell you how it was received, because Jerry knew that it meant being in a room and working with zero, and maybe he thought, I can make up with zero if I come in and help the show.

Speaker That could very well be part of the motive. How would probably have more insight into that than I? Because he was the one who as producer who actually had to do it.

Speaker Is there anything else you want to say about for a couple more things to ask you? No, you were, I think, somewhat of an inspiration matchmaker in Italy.

Speaker Oh, my God, how'd you find that out?

Speaker Oh, we we we always we get the information.

Speaker Yeah, no, my memory is I heard the score of Fiddler, I think, up at Justin's house in New Rochelle, I think it was. And I called Jerry and I said, there's a show you got to this is, I think, right up your alley.

Speaker I also called Hal.

Speaker I think I think I can't remember now I may be mixing something up here. I know what Jerry was the first one I called so soon as I heard the score and I just thought, this is so much up Jerry's Alley, that's it.

Speaker Well, you did a good thing, yeah, um, you talked a little about this before, but he he was, um, articulate. Not articulate.

Speaker No, he wasn't. He wasn't articulate. Curious enough. No, he wasn't articulate on any subject. Really.

Speaker No.

Speaker But me tell me you gave him a very good piece of advice and you said you have to listen to him very carefully because he doesn't consider himself articulate. What is his power?

Speaker Yes, well, I can't give you examples, but Jerry, in trying to find the right word, would talk around it and give images, Jerry thought and images, as anybody who's primarily visual does.

Speaker There are very few people how being one of them who are both visual and verbal, Jianguo is another visual and verbal. Jerry with only visual, I think he might have appreciated language, but he was not articulate that way. He couldn't find the words to express exactly what he wanted, but so that it got in the way when he would direct an actor, he wouldn't be able to tell the actor exactly what he wanted. He would have to talk in images. And if the actor was the kind of actor who can translate images into action, great. But not many people in musical theater can do that. A lot of what they call serious actors can, but not many people in musical theater. So he I mean, I watched him try to direct certain people I don't want to name. And he couldn't get the performances out of them because they didn't know how to respond. He couldn't make himself understood when he was as a choreographer. All he had to do was get up and take the pose and the dancer would get, oh, I get it. I know what he wants.

Speaker Many years after you were together, he was given a Kennedy Center honor and he asked you to present it in you, I think.

Speaker I had forgotten that. I wonder if that's true.

Speaker If I did, it certainly had nothing to do with personal things. I think it had to do with entirely. I don't like appearing in public. I certainly if if I if I did decline, it had nothing to do with Jerry Kawajiri. It had to do with getting up there in black tie in front of 2500 celebrities and and not peeing in my pants. I mean, that's just that's just not the kind of thing I want to do. And I think I if Jerry had been a close friend, it had been Hal Prince, for example, I would have done it. But it would take a close friend to make me get up there and do that.

Speaker I, um. When you think back on Jerry's career, what role do you see him having played in the evolution of the American musical? Oh, dear, I can't answer questions like that. Well, do you think of him as a sort of bridge builder between you know, you've talked before about how and showboating.

Speaker You mentioned Agnes, you know, because I you know, I think the people who essentially change the theater writers, not directors. Directors, can I know I know, for example, that the fluid staging of South Pacific by Josh Logan, which involved wipes and dissolves, came out of Alliegro, the show that Oscar had written before South Pacific in which Oscar as a writer had described the action as being fluid and had devised with Joe M.. Zener a serpentine curtain that wiped things away and and pushed things back on. Alegra was not a hit, but Josh had seen it and Josh used it. Then Hal saw Josh his work. So in that sense, there was a development that way of directors in the theater, a fluidity of staging. But it started with the writers. It was the writers who started the fluidity. And so I don't think of directors as shaping the course of the theatre. I think of writers doing that.

Speaker Now, um, OK, I know you're dying to go, and this is really going to stick.

Speaker This is going to be a here, so we'll leave it totally if you want to stand up and say I'm done.

Speaker Sure. Sure. Um. What would be the exception to the rule? Oh. I can talk about that. OK.

Speaker It's not a thorn at all. OK, Jerry wanted me to write a show based on a Brecht play called The Measures Taken. I'm not a Brecht fan. I read the play and I said, I know how you do it. It's a it's a play about a trial as many breathalyser. And he said literally, would you turn to the next play in the book with a collective breath play the next play. The next play in the book was called The Exception, The Rule.

Speaker And I read that and I thought, well, it could be me as when I wrote, I think, two songs.

Speaker And they just didn't feel right. I just I was trying to get into the Brecht mode and I couldn't do it, and I said to Jerry, I just can't I you know, I think I even played it for him. And he said, Yeah, I see what you mean. They just weren't right. So I suggested he wanted I suggested that he get Lenny to do it because Lenny wrote his own lyrics for things like Trouble in Tahiti. And Lenny, this is Brecht. It was right up Lenny's alley, loved Brecht. And Jerry didn't want that, but.

Speaker And I can't remember.

Speaker I don't think was my suggestion anyway, it ended with Lenny writing with Jerry Leiber and they wrote some songs and then I got a call from Jerry saying, I wish you'd come up and listen to the songs because I don't think they're right. And I said, OK. And I went up and listen, I thought they were terrific. I thought the lyrics were terrific. I thought music was exactly what Lenny should write for that kind of thing. It sounded to me fine. I really couldn't understand why Jerry was unhappy. And to this day, I don't know why he was unhappy. But so Lenny and Jerry together. Actually drew me into a room afterwards, after I'd heard the songs and said, please, Steve, I said, I don't think there's anything wrong with it. Please, please, please stay with you. I said, really? I don't think anyone. Thanks a lot. Then a few weeks later, the producer, the putative producer was Stuart Ostro. And he said, we have Jonquiere to write the libretto and he has an idea. Would you come in here? John's idea? And I thought just to be nice and gentle with a friend, because I certainly had no intention of writing just lyrics again, and I thought John's idea was so terrific, I thought Jerry directing and this terrific idea. Oh, well, what the hell, why not? And I really like Lenny and blah, blah, blah. So I said, OK, so Lenny, I wrote I guess about eight songs. And the problem was that Lenny was treating me the way he did when I was 25 years old at the time, hadn't passed. You know, it's like he had the vet everywhere. He had to defend every word I wrote. And so I was not having a good time. Meanwhile, I could sense Jerry wasn't having such a good time either. And so we had dinner, the four of us one night, John and Jerry and Lenny and I. And I think it was at my request, I said, look, I really can't go on with this project. You're welcome to use whatever I've written. Anything you want is yours, but I'm just not having a good time. I don't think it's turning out.

Speaker Right, and I think the idea was swell and.

Speaker Shortly thereafter, Jerry also quit, so to speak, left the project, Lenny wanted to continue it. I don't I don't remember John's attitude was at the moment at that time, and then many years passed, the project got revived or the idea was resuscitated for Lincoln Center where came to me and said, you know what, I need some more. So I said, John, it's just not for me. He said, You mind? I said, no, you do it by all means. You do it and fill out, do whatever you want. With any lyrics I've written, they're all yours, do them whatever you want and write your own, which he did. And then the project never, just never came to fruition.

Stephen Sondheim
Interview Date:
American Archive of Public Broadcasting GUID:
cpb-aacip-504-5717m04h73, cpb-aacip-504-930ns0mf48
"Stephen Sondheim, Jerome Robbins: Something to Dance About." American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). 24 Sep. 2007,
(2007, September 24). Stephen Sondheim, Jerome Robbins: Something to Dance About. [Video]. American Masters Digital Archive (WNET).
"Stephen Sondheim, Jerome Robbins: Something to Dance About." American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). September 24, 2007. Accessed August 08, 2022


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