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In 1963, ‘West Side Story’ composer sent telegram to St. Mary’s cast


LANCASTER — With the remake of the film “West Side Story” currently playing in theaters, it has spurred a little trip down memory lane for St. Mary’s High School.

The co-ed college preparatory school got caught in the radar of Leonard Bernstein, the famed composer who wrote the music for the original Broadway production of “West Side Story” that premiered in 1957 along with the film version that was first released in 1961, eventually winning the Academy Award for best Feature Film.

In 1963, St. Mary’s High School was the first high school in the country to produce “West Side Story.” The show caused quite the stir, running for three weekends due to its popularity and was even protested by a group of Protestant ministers for reasons unknown to the school at the time and still to this day.

Knowing St. Mary’s was the first school to bring his musical to life in a high school auditorium, Bernstein felt compelled to send the school his well wishes by way of a personal telegram, saying:

“Best wishes to you and the boys and girls who are taking part in ‘West Side Story.’ I hope you will enjoy playing and performing it as much as I did writing the music for it. All success and good luck.”

Leonard Bernstein

 Receiving this telegram prior to the opening night of St. Mary’s 1963 production was obviously a great thrill for the cast, crew, and directors.