Columbia High School's " won the applause of a special audience member at Sunday's matinee -- Alexander Bernstein, whose father Leonard Bernstein composed the music for the popular musical.
Standing to acknowledge the pit orchestra of high school musicians performing his father's theatrical masterpiece, Bernstein raised his arms and gave a double "thumbs up."
It was Bernstein's second visit to after coming to the school on Wednesday to witness a rehearsal and answer students' questions. He took questions from students about topics including his father's choices in selecting notes and rhythms in the musical score, according to school officials and students.
Bernstein asked to visit CHS after hearing about the production from his friend Jim Oppenheim of Maplewood, father of Joseph, a CHS sophomore, and Julia, in 8th grade at Maplewood Middle School.
"He asked us whether the students had time to meet with him, and we said 'We'll make the time!'" said Michael Healy, assistant principal and producer of the CHS show.
During intermission, Bernstein met with schools Superintendent Dr. Brian Osborne, who thanked him for giving so much time and attention to CHS students.
"Tremendous - they are doing a fantastic job," said Bernstein when asked his impression of the CHS production.
A former middle school teacher who co-directed the production at his Brooklyn school before retiring to oversee his late father's musical legacy, Bernstein estimated he's seen West Side Story more than 1,000 times since it first appeared on Broadway in 1957 when he was 2 years old.
"I never get tired of it," Bernstein told Patch.
His father, who died in 1990, would have been impressed by the CHS production, he said.
"He'd love it so. He was so interested in young people and arts education," said Bernstein, who is also deeply involved through ArtfulLearning.org.
The pit orchesta for West Side Story is the largest in CHS history with 35 musicians.
West Side Story continues .