If you already own the Broadway cast album or the film soundtrack of WEST SIDE STORY, this album might not seem an essential purchase, because the sheer brilliance and electric energy of the score was captured for the ages on those two aforementioned discs. What you will get on this 1993 studio cast album, though, are two very capable singers, and the musical direction of Barry Wordsworth with the Royal Philharmonic.
Michael Ball and Barbara Bonney play the doomed lovers Tony and Maria. Ball, a musical theatre veteran, easily slips into the material and performs it handsomely. Barbara Bonney, an opera singer best-known for her peerless Mozart soprano roles, seems a little unsteady treading in a different style of music (but the role of Maria is quite suited to an operatic soprano voice). On the whole, Ball and Bonney make quite a team and the recording flatters them both immensely.
LaVerne Williams, mezzo soprano, again displays why it's sometimes very hard for an opera singer to try adapting their voices to another genre of music. The role of Anita is written and best performed by a fiery belter, not the tranquil mezzo that Ms Williams uses on this recording. "America" comes across as a whisper rather than a scream, and "A Boy Like That", grief-stricken Anita's verbal attack on Maria, is not all that it could have been.
This recording features quite a lot of the dance and ballet music, and some snippets of dialogue to indicate the progression of the story. This is arguably Leonard Bernstein's greatest gift to the musical theatre, filled with haunting and sweeping melodies, coupled with Stephen Sondheim's earliest of lyrics.
Although it's not the best recording of the score, you could do a lot worse than this WEST SIDE STORY.
This Cd is the best audio product of the play "WEST SIDE STORY" I have ever heard. Johnny Mathis in the sixties was my favorite until this one. One can never go wrong with Michael Ball as the vocalist.