Leonard Bernstein, the American composer and conductor who was born 100 years ago this August, got the best of all possible tributes from the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and members of the Philharmonia Choir under the assured direction of John Wilson, a specialist in American music. Titled The Bernstein Songbook, this concert (with traffic smartly directed by Mitchell Butel) concentrated primarily on songs from Bernstein’s musicals. However, the selection was by no means obvious. In the short set from his best-known work West Side Story, one of the three numbers was the patter song Gee Officer Krupke!It was performed with brio and Bronx accents by Michael Hart, Ryan Gonzales, Matthew Manahan and Shaun Rennie: all highly experienced and well-known Australian music theatre singers.

Less familiar fare in the program included excerpts from the one-act opera Trouble in Tahiti, Peter Pan, and A White House Cantata. The latter is a late work, put together from the score of a flop musical about a century of the presidency ( 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue), which Bernstein composed in 1976 to a libretto by Alan Jay Lerner. That show may have flopped, but last night’s performance of two excerpts showed that its failure was certainly not...