Mar 16, 2023 - Things to Do

Cleveland Orchestra takes on "West Side Story"

Fire escape scene from the 1961 film "West Side Story" featuring Tony and Maria.

Spoiler alert! One of them doesn't make it out alive. Photo: Donaldson Collection/Getty Images

It was good enough for Steven Spielberg, so why not the Cleveland Orchestra?

Driving the news: Guest conductor Brett Mitchell will lead the Cleveland Orchestra through "West Side Story in Concert," this weekend at Severance Hall.

  • Video from the 1961 Oscar-winning film will play on a screen behind the orchestra.

Zoom out: "West Side Story" has experienced a national resurgence in recent years, starting with a Broadway revival in 2020 and Spielberg's film remake in 2021.

Zoom in: Mitchell, who is an adjunct professor of music at the University of Denver, has led the Cleveland Orchestra in multiple performances of "West Side Story," most recently in 2017 when he was associate director of the orchestra.

What they're saying: Mitchell tells Axios that Leonard Bernstein's music in "West Side Story" is "universal" and "quintessentially American."

  • "This project premiered in the 1950s. The film premiered in 1961," Mitchell says. "Here we are more than 60 years later still experiencing this piece. It's a total masterpiece."

The big picture: Orchestral performances of mainstream movies have become all the rage.

  • The Cleveland Orchestra will also perform the music from "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers" and "Jurassic Park" at this year's Blossom Music Festival.
  • "It's one of the greatest things that has happened to orchestras in the last century," Mitchell says. "I grew up listening to all these amazing soundtracks, and now I get to bring them to life for thousands of people."

If you go: Performances begin at 7:30pm Friday, 8pm Saturday, and 3pm Sunday.


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