West Side Story play
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Randy Lemoine
News and Entertainment

‘Maria’ Play Follows ‘West Side Story’ Lead Character’s Return to Puerto Rico

Spoilers ahead if you haven’t seen the play or film

If you’re like us and can’t get enough of Steven Spielberg’s new adaptation of West Side Story starring Rachel Zegler, Ariana DeBose, and Rita Moreno, then you’re in luck! Long Wharf Theater, a nonprofit in New Haven, Connecticut, has just announced that they are commissioning a sequel to the original 1957 musical titled, Maria! Written by husband and wife duo Steven Sapp and Mildred Ruiz-Sapp, the musical will follow Maria after the end of West Side Story, which leaves her with two dead loved ones and an uncertain future that leads her to find her way back to Puerto Rico.

In the original Romeo and Juliet-inspired story, Tony and Maria are teenagers who are torn between their loyalties to their respective white and Puerto Rican communities and to each other. After falling in love at a dance, their love fuels the fire of a dangerous turf war, leaving Tony, his friend Riff, and Maria’s brother Bernardo dead in the streets of New York. Maria and Bernardo’s girlfriend Anita survive but are left to mourn their losses and pick up the pieces of what the war left behind.

“What happened to that young woman, Maria, after she walks out of the park after Tony has been murdered?” Sapp said, according to Forbes. “What life does she lead now that she knows hate and murder, and where does her story continue? Interweaving true Puerto Rican narratives, we discover the journey of a starry-eyed Puerto Rican girl through her life’s journey, witnessing what she has experienced and the world she has inspired along the way.”

“The dream of every Puerto Rican is to go back to the island,” added Ruiz-Sapp. “The new show will take Maria and place her within the eye of the storm … of Hurricane Maria [in Puerto Rico], where she has to take notice of everything that she has lived and everything that has happened to her.”

When West Side Story has historically been told by white men with little involvement from Puerto Rican actors, the duo felt that Maria was the perfect way for Latinx storytellers to reclaim a highly beloved but controversial story. 

In this vein, the artistic director of Long Wharf Theatre, Jacob Padrón said, “What is our response specifically as artists of color? What is our response to this piece that one could argue has been culturally appropriated?”

Following the announcement, actor Rachel Zegler, who played Maria in the 2021 film adaptation, jokingly tweeted, “you’re making a sequel to west side story and it isn’t called CHINO?” She later clarified that, while excited, she wasn’t involved in this new upcoming project. 

Written by Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim, and Arthur Laurents, West Side Story was first performed on Broadway in 1957. It was later made into a film in 1961, also starring Rita Moreno and winning a historic 10 Academy Awards. Since its December 10 release, Steven Spielberg’s 2021 adaptation has garnered widespread acclaim from critics, four Golden Globe Award nominations, and several acting awards for Zegler and DeBose. Maria is still in its early development stages and it’s not a Broadway production but will be releasing more information and casting details soon.

West Side Story is out in theaters now and will be available to stream on Disney+ in January 2022.