If you are a fan of Broadway musicals and theater, then you came to the right place! In celebration of Steven Spielberg’s latest motion picture West Side Story we’ve decided to look at some of our favorite West Side Story performances from The Ed Sullivan Show. We hope you enjoy these memorable performances and be sure to see the newly released motion picture in theaters now!
Carol Lawrence and Larry Kert
On November 2, 1958, the original Broadway West Side Story cast returned to the Ed Sullivan Show stage for the second time with the show’s leads Carol Lawrence and Larry Kert. The two stars reenacted the legendary balcony scene and sang Tonight. The power and reach of The Ed Sullivan Show was obvious, as Lawrence later recalled, “It was just lines around the block with people waiting to purchase tickets to the show.” She continued, “It was as if the American public as a whole had gotten a taste of it (on Sullivan) and then everybody coming to New York had to see our show. We ran over to the standing room only as a result of Mr. Sullivan’s exposure.”
On January 26, 1969, British recording star Dame Shirley Bassey, best known for her association with James Bond soundtracks, took to the Sullivan stage to perform her favorite song from West Side Story, Something’s Coming. Bassey was a big fan of the Broadway show and performed many of the musical’s songs throughout her long career, but Something’s Coming was always her number one pick!
On February 20, 1966, The Supremes performed a medley of songs which included My World Is Empty Without You and the romantic West Side Story song Somewhere. Somewhere, holds special meaning for The Supremes because in 1965, they recorded the song for their album, There’s A Place for Us, however it remained unreleased up until 2004. The group also performed it during their debut appearance at famed New York City’s Copacabana, with the song becoming a fan favorite at their performances.
Anna Maria Alberghetti
On November 27, 1960, Anna Maria Alberghetti performed two iconic songs, I’ve Got The World On A String and West Side Story’s Tonight followed by a duet with Tony Martin. Alberghetti was known for having both a stage and film career. Not only was West Side Story her favorite show, but she played the lead Maria in the summer stock travelling rendition of the show in the 60’s. Other Broadway blockbusters that Anna Maria starred in were, The Sound of Music, Cabaret and Camelot.
On September 27, 1964, following the Beach Boys Sullivan debut performance, Leslie Uggams had a debut of her own, opening with her own rendition of I Feel Pretty. West Side Story is a big part of Uggams’ career. In 1976, she toured with the Philadelphia College of Performing Arts Group and played Maria in their West Side Story production. Leslie Uggams even had the opportunity to perform a duet with Tom Jones, and their song of choice was none other than the impassioned Somewhere.
On April 30, 1967, The Muppets took over the Ed Sullivan stage to not only entertain the crowd, but put their Broadway skills to use. The Muppets performed a sketch singing I Feel Pretty, where a Muppet named Amanda tries to alter her looks using a self-help book titled “How To Not Be Ugly” in order to gain the affection of fellow puppet, Conrad Love. Over the years The Muppets used other West Side Story songs in both their live performances and hit TV show, The Muppet Show.
Cast of West Side Story
On September 14, 1958, just a week before the musical’s one year anniversary, the original cast of West Side Story debuted on Sullivan a special performance of “Cool” with Hank Brunjes leading the crew as Riff. It was an important night for both the musical and cast as the entire nation and Canada got a preview of this critically acclaimed Broadway smash hit. Following the performance, the director of West Side Story, Jerome Robbins, was introduced by Sullivan. After the live show ended, Sullivan gave the only tape of the performance to Robbins. It remained unseen until 2008, when researchers found it while preparing a PBS American Masters program on Robbins.
Sammy Davis Jr.
On February 2, 1964, on the Sullivan Show, Sammy Davis Jr. sang a medley of West Side Story songs staged on a New York City street themed set. Davis was supported by percussionist Johnny Mendoza on the bongos giving the feeling of a raw urban landscape. Davis started his set by smoking a cigarette in a cool “jet” like manner and went on to perform the hit songs, Jet Song, Something’s Coming, Cool, Somewhere, Tonight and Maria. Davis’ interpretation of the music and staging was met with resounding applause. After the performance being so well received Davis would include this same West Side Story medley with Johnny Mendoza on tour across the country.
On June 2, 1963, comedic duo and Sullivan favorites, Allen & Rossi were set to perform on The Ed Sullivan Show. However, before Marty Allen joined Steve Rossi on stage, Steve sang an amazing cover of West Side Story’s Tonight. You could hear from the crowd’s reaction that they wanted more!. Rossi developed a successful solo singing career and was signed to several big labels including Colombia and ABC during the 1960’s and 70’s.
The Kim Sisters
On September 6, 1964, The Kim Sisters made their 14th appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show with a special medley of West Side Story songs. In true Kim Sisters fashion, they showed their range as performers from their dancing, playing instruments and including unique props utilizing the entire stage. The Sisters sang Something’s Coming, Maria, I Feel Pretty, Tonight, America and I Have A Love. Following their performance, Ed said,“The first time the Kim Sisters came to the show they could barely speak English, and now they’re accomplished stars.”
We hope that you learned more about the Sullivan Show’s history and its ties to West Side Story and its music. So many interpretations of these magical songs were performed on the show, and we can’t wait to share more of West Side Story with you.! And like always, don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel for new videos!