Picture two gangs of youths with slicked-back hair prowling the streets of New York, bristling with pent-up energy and rage as they get in each other’s faces. It’s the Jets and the Sharks marking their territory in one of the most dazzling feats of choreography ever captured on celluloid: the prologue to Bernstein’s West Side Story.

Now imagine every finger-click, every sneakered footstep, precisely synched to a live symphonic performance of the three-hour movie’s complete score –  a feat of musical theatre and endurance in its own right. That’s what audiences will experience when the re-mastered film screens at the Sydney Opera House this week.

American conductor David Newman steps up to the podium for Sydney Symphony’s Broadway blockbuster. But it’s not the first time the SSO has enhanced the cinematic experience with live music: in recent years they have played along to the classic 1927 silent film Metropolis  and scored a hit with their traversal of madcap music from Bugs Bunny. Orchestras around the world are scrambling to draw a crowd with similar events, but why has the “film with orchestra” concert become such a strong trend internationally?

Newman believes it’s because we are “losing the communal experience...