March 2022 at Musical Cyberspace is all about songs with people’s names in the title.
It’s not often that Stephen Sondheim writes a lyric that is unabashedly romantic, but “Maria”, written with Leonard Bernstein, is such a song. A glorious testament to a young woman met in a few magical moments at a dance and the sound of her name, the song is heard early on in West Side Story as Tony, a former member of a gang known as the Jets, expresses his newfound love for Maria, the sister of the leader of a rival gang, the Sharks. The song makes credible the sudden, yet profound love that connects Tony and Maria – an impressive feat, expertly achieved.
With the show having first opened in 1957, then breaking through into popular culture in a huge way thanks to its 1961 film adaptation, there are scores of takes on this song from various productions, studio recordings and covers by musical theatre and musical theatre adjacent artists. With Larry Kert setting the bar high on the original Broadway cast recording as he acts through song this pivotal moment of the drama, the most recent recording at the time of writing is Ansel Elgort’s in-role take on the song in the 2021 film adaptation of the show. In between, the likes of Michael Ball, Jeremy Jordan, Aaron Tveit and Colm Wilkonson have all performed the song – and there’s even a live recording of Ariana DeBose singing the song at a concert at Birdland. We’re spoiled for choice.
Keen to share your thoughts on “Maria”? Have you got a favourite version of the song that you treasure? Head on to the comment box at the end of this post and let us know!