‘West Side Story’ on Broadway Stars Several People of Color in New Cast

There’s been a lot of buzz surrounding Steven Spielberg’s upcoming remake of West Side Story but the cast of the Broadway revival also features people of color, most are young musical theater actors making their Broadway debut.

​Shereen Pimentel, a student at Julliard who made her Broadway debut playing Young Nala in The Lion King, will play Maria and half-Black and Native American actor Isaac Powell, of the musical Once on This Island, will play Tony.

Rounding out the cast is Yesenia Ayala (Carousel) as Anita, Ben Cook (Mean Girls) as Riff, and Amar Ramasar (Carousel) as Bernardo, Jacob Guzman (Newsies) as Chino, Ahmad Simmons (Hadestown) as Diesel, Danny Wolohan (To Kill a Mockingbird) as Officer Krupke, Daniel Oreskes (Oslo) as Doc, Thomas Jay Ryan (The Crucible) as Lt. Schrank, Pippa Pearthree (Tuck Everlasting) as Glad Hand, Kevin Csolak (Mean Girls) as A-Rab, Matthew Johnson as Baby John, Dharon E. Jones as Action, Zuri Noelle Ford as Anybodys.

But this production is not just a newer version of the classic Broadway play, which debuted in 1957, it’s also updating the choreography originally by dance powerhouse Jerome Robbins with Belgian choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker.

The original featured music by Broadway icons Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, in their retelling of Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet with a Puerto Rican girl and a Polish-American boy falling in love amid violence in their feuding communities in New York’s Upper West Side in the 1950s.  The original 1957 production ran for 732 performances and returned to the stage in 1960,  1980 and 2009. 

The last revival on Broadway garnered attention when it introduced Spanish lyrics written by Lin-Manuel Miranda that were later mostly converted back to English after director Arthur Laurents, who wrote the play’s book, felt it didn’t make as much of an impact.

Tony-award winning Belgian director Ivo van Hove is known for having a provocative and experimental approach but no word yet on if it will make a similar attempt for authenticity with the lyrics in his rendition.

This is not like any West Side Story anybody has seen,” producer Scott Rudin told The Hollywood Reporter. “It is being treated as a new work… West Side Story will always be there. This is simply the next iteration of it.”

The production will start performances on December 10, 2019, at the Broadway Theatre and open on February 6, 2020. Meanwhile, Steven Spielberg’s remake hits theaters on December 18, 2020.




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