On this day (March 22) in 1930, Stephen Sondheim was born. Sondheim wrote the lyrics to the beautiful love song “Somewhere” (sometimes referred to as “There’s A Place for Us”) from the 1957 Broadway musical West Side Story. Stephen was one lucky boy when he got his first professional job to write the lyrics to Leonard Bernstein’s landmark musical. I think the music stands very strong on it’s own (understatement.) But I have to admit, Sondheim’s lyrics are pretty good.
Sondheim has received an Academy Award, eight Tony Awards (more than any other composer (including a Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre,) eight Grammy Awards, a Pulitzer Prize, a Laurence Olivier Award, and a 2015 Presidential Medal of Freedom.
In the 1961 film, the song occurs after the rumble in which Tony has stabbed Maria’s brother, Bernardo. Having nowhere else to go, Tony runs to Maria, who has just been told of her brother’s death and who killed him. When Tony comes to her room through the balcony window, Maria, in shock, pounds against his chest. Realizing in spite of her anger that she still loves Tony, Maria begs him to hold her. After Maria cries out, “It’s not us…it’s everything around us.” Tony replies, “Then I’ll take you away, where nothing can get to us.” He then begins singing “Somewhere” to her. Maria sings the first few lines of the song as Tony dies in her arms (sob, sob…)
It’s hard to over-emphasize how popular this movie was when it came out (in my Philadelphia neighborhood, anyway.) I remember we used to sing West Side Story songs as we ‘rumbled’ (wrestled and fought) on the front lawns of Tustin Avenue and MacGargee streets. It was definitely my first introduction into Broadway musicals.
I hope you enjoy this timeless melody.