Prelude, Fugue & Riffs

Conducting West Side Story

by Donald Chan

The question I am asked the most is: After over 2,000 performances and approximately 50 or so different productions, do you still enjoy working on and performing West Side Story? And my answer has to be a resounding — YES! Why? It’s the most complete musical that has ever been composed. The book, dance, and music are so intertwined that it was and still is considered the show that revolutionized musical theater in the 1950's. Certainly it was way ahead of its time. The music has everything from latin, jazz, classical, and even a 12 tone row. It is never boring. I have done all sorts of productions with all different sizes of orchestras: from 18 musicians up to 65 musicians. The most exhilarating of them was in 2000 at La Scala in Milan, Italy with the La Scala Orchestra.

I guess I am now considered an honored statesman of West Side Story productions, as I help to supervise and consult other musical directors and productions when asked. I will be celebrating the 50th Anniversary of West Side Story with productions in Vienna and Paris this fall, and hope to reach my goal of 2500 performances within the next year.

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