West Side Story is back in a big way. The beloved musical is returning to the big screen and Broadway, with all kinds of major talent attached. This classic story of love and hate among warring gangs in NYC, based on Romeo and Juliet, is ripe for re-imagining. Its timeless message is more relevant than ever.
West Side Story: Broadway Bound
With experimental Belgian director, Ivo van Hove, at the helm, this is sure to be a production that is anything but obedient to its classic predecessor. van Hove, who won a Tony for his revival of Arthur Miller’s View From the Bridge in 2016, is known for distilling the essence of classic films and plays and concocting them into productions with bold elements that express current urgencies. The Broadway opening is slated for February 6, 2020. Previews start on Tuesday, December 10, 2019
Right off the bat, we know that the classic Jerome Robbins choreography will be replaced with new choreography by Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, a fellow Belgian from the realm of avante-guard. van Hove and De Keersmaeker have known each other since their careers began, but this is the first occasion they’ve had to work together.
They both profess a love of the original choreography, and a desire to honor what was so revolutionary about West Side Story, the sense of the play, the music and the choreography being all one. They hope to make this a show that speaks to the 21st century, rather than looking back to another time.
van Hove has said that this show is about “young people abandoned,” and so we’re going to see the force of a lot of young talent in this show, with a record-breaking 23 Broadway debuts in the show. The cast of West Side Story will include Shereen Pimentel as Maria, Isaac Powell as Tony, Yesenia Ayala as Anita, and Amar Ramasar as Bernardo.
Bernstein Family Approves
Leonard Bernstein’s daughter has given the production a tremendous endorsement, and apparently has high hopes for the currency of this production as well. “The Bernstein Office and siblings are thrilled at this opportunity to see West Side Story staged anew in its own location, New York City. The show’s theme of love destroyed by hatred and intolerance is as poignant today as it was in Shakespeare’s time — but the storyline involving the mistreatment of Puerto Rican immigrants makes West Side Story more timely now than ever.”
We can’t wait to experience what’s sure to be one of the essential Broadway shows of the season.
West Side Story: The Hollywood Treatment
Meanwhile, Hollywood’s own legend, Steven Speilberg, has a film remake in the works. The original classic film was equal parts beloved and controversial. Natalie Wood, who was Russian-American, played the Puerto Rican lead, Maria. This artistic gem falls short of 21st century social standards and is ready for an update.
Spielberg is teaming up with Tony award-winning playwright Tony Kushner, who also penned the film Lincoln. It’s expected that the remake will resemble its original theatrical source more than the 1961 film adaptation. We’ll see some original choreography, and of course, we’ll hear those glorious tunes from the original musical.
Speilberg was meticulous in casting and only saw Latino actors to play the Sharks. He also looked for actors who could sing their own songs. Long gone are the days of Hollywood ghost singers making stars sound good.
Baby Driver actor Ansel Elgort will play Tony, with 18 year old singer-songwrighter Rachel Zegler taking on the iconic part of Maria. Rita Moreno, who played Anita in the 1961 film, will return to the cast in a new role. And by new, we mean the role was created for her. Moreno will be playing Valentina, which is said to be a riff on the original role of Doc. The actress will also executive produce the film. Outside of the leads, there will lots of overlap in actors between the Broadway and Hollywood versions.
Waiting with bated breath!
Tickets are available now for the Broadway run. Previews begin December 10, 2019, and the show will open in February 6,2020. The film, however, isn’t slated to open until December of 2020. We’ll be waiting patiently for both!