For this show, recurring musical elements include the tritone ("Ma-ri-a"), a variety of time signatures (hemiola in "America"), and unique leitmotifs for the main characters. Playing off of the conductor's score, I basically have an orchestral reduction--which means there's a lot of music squeezed onto the page.
My main task at this beginning stage is simply to identify the most important parts (and decide which parts I might be able to leave out), and to begin creating a mental program of the show--learning characters, their leitmotifs, and internalizing the overall pace (and specific song tempos) of the show.
That said, I'll be in the practice room quite a lot these days! I'm excited for the challenge that lies ahead, and I'm glad to be throwing myself into the musical theater arena (an arena that is relatively unfamiliar to me, when compared to other areas.)
Here's to new experiences, growth, and Leonard Bernstein!
UPDATE: I blogged about the music of West Side Story, in three installments. Check it out!