作者简介：Mark Eden Horowitz 美国国会图书馆的高级音乐学专家。著有一本Sondheim研究专著《Minor Details and Major Decisions》，也为期刊《Sondheim Review》的专栏撰稿。他同时在乔治敦大学教授有关音乐剧剧场和Sondheim的课程。
On September 26th 1957, Stephen Sondheim wrote a letter to Leonard Bernstein upon the opening of West Side Story. The letter closed with this wish:"May West Side Story mean as much to the theater and to people who see it as it has to us." It did. It does.
While Sondheim's premier effort for Broadway (as lyricist only) went largely unrecognized initially, by the time the film was released in 1961 virtually every aspect of the show, including its lyrics, was acclaimed as classic. And for the twenty-seven-year-old Sondheim, this meant a collaboration with three masters of their craft, each of whom planted seeds that would inform all of his subsequent work. From Bernstein he learned never to be "ashamed to fall off the high rung of the ladder," and to strive to write music that is "inevitable but fresh." From playwright Arthur Laurents, he learned about subtext and writing for actors. And from director-choreographer Jerome Robbins, he learned about the importance of imagining the staging of a song as you write it.
The two West Side Story songs that announced Sondheim's facility at wit, humor, and explicating complex subjects are "America" and "Gee, Officer Krupke." As it happens, both were changed for the film. According to the screenwriter Ernest Lehman:"'America' in the stage version was about the conditions of Puerto Ricans in Puerto Rico. It was rewritten by Stephen Sndheim for the film so that it was about conditions that Puerto Ricans encounter in America. After all, the song is called 'America.'" In the process, the song was given added bite by dealing more explicitly with racism and prejudice with such new lines as: "Life is all right in America./ If you're all white in America." But "Officer Krupke" was out-and-out censored. The lines "My father is a bastard,/ My ma's an S.O.B" were replaced with "My Daddy beats my Mommy,/ My Mommy clobbers me"; and even "slob" was substituted for "schmuck."
Sondheim has expressed embarrassment at some of the show's other lyrics, many of which were guided by Bernstein's fondness for more purple sentiment (Bernstein was initially planning to write the lyrics himself). However, consider the fairly simple seeming lyric for "Maria." Oscar HammersteinⅡ, who had been Sondheim's mentor beginning in his teens, had something of a reputation for writing love-at-first-sight songs ('"Make Beliee" and "If I Loved You" being two examples). With "Maria," Sondheim had to convince the audience that Tony had fallen in love at first sight although virtually the only thing he knows about her is her name. Tony also had to counter the comment made by Maria's brother Bernardo only moments before:"I told you: there's only one thing they want from a Puerto Rican girl!" But as soon as Tony sings the line "Say it soft and it's almost like praying," the audience knows the depth and character of his love.