It's too bad that the people who originated some of the most famous roles in musical theater history aren't better remembered. Case in point: Larry Kert, who created the role of Tony in West Side Story, surely one of the most influenti...
It's too bad that the people who originated some of the most famous roles in musical theater history aren't better remembered. Case in point: Larry Kert, who created the role of Tony in West Side Story, surely one of the most influential musicals ever staged.Kert never again achieved anything like the renown he earned in this retelling of Romeo and Juliet in mid-century Hell's Kitchen, New York. He was passed over for the role in the film version, taken by Richard Beymer, whose singing voice was dubbed by studio vocalist Jimmy Bryant (not the same person as the guitarist of that name). He appeared in flop musicals. He held lead roles in Cabaret and Company, but as a replacement.With Carol Lawrence in West Side StoryThere is no doubt that Kert was a fine talent, with a particular affinity for the music of Leonard Bernstein, as presented here. He was in fact brought to the West Side Story cast by the show's lyricist, Stephen Sondheim, who wrote the notes for this album.Three of the 12 songs here are from West Side Story - "Maria," "Tonight" and "Something's Coming." These are all of Kert's songs from the show save "One Hand, One Heart." But just as welcome are "Lonely Town" and "Some Other Time" from On the Town, "My House" from Peter Pan, and especially "It Must Be So" from Candide, in a wonderful performance.This record was issued on Seeco, which although primarily known as a Latin label, also had a pop and jazz line at times. It came out in 1960, when Kert was appearing in West Side Story, which had reopened on Broadway after a brief hiatus.The arrangements are by Richard Wess, who had gained some notice for his backings for Bobby Darin during Darin's swinging period, notably for "Mack the Knife." If I would prefer a sound more like what might have been heard in the theater, the arrangements are nonetheless good. However, something went awry in the recording or post-processing. The record is billed as stereo on cover and label, but there is little stereo information. Balances can be odd - there are a few piano solos that sound like they are coming from the other room while the accompanying guitar chords seemingly are a foot away. But these anomalies do not detract from what is a very enjoyable record.
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