Frances Fyfield and her team (conductor Marin Alsop, writer Nigel Simeone and Librarian Mark Horowitz) are at the Library of Congress in Washington DC to explore boxes full of the handwritten score and sketches of Leonard Bernstein’s 1957 Broadway smash hit musical, West Side Story. They’re the proud property of the Library of Congress in Washington DC where the musical was first tried in an ‘out-of-town’ run before hitting Broadway. It was something of a tortured collaboration between writer Arthur Laurents, choreographer and director Jerome Robbins and Bernstein himself along with a young Stephen Sondheim. The manuscripts tell the story of Bernstein’s ambitions for an operatic score thwarted according to the composer or channelled and controlled according to history.

Librarian Horowitz also reveals the examples of music Bernstein culled from earlier works and other bits that were composed for the show but ended up in his later Chichester Psalms. The programme is intercut with extracts from Bernstein’s letters to his wife in which he divulged his frustration at what was happening to ‘my poor little score’. Plus there are gems beyond the musical scores. Bernstein’s audition books reveal that Warren Beatty was amongst those who tried out for a part. ‘Charming as hell’ according to the composer but ultimately ‘not quite right’.