Steven Spielberg‘s West Side Story cast is slowly beginning to come into focus. The Beard already cast Baby Driver star Ansel Elgort as Tony, the male lead of his musical remake, and now Spielberg has found his young Maria. Rachel Zegler, a 17-year-old high school student, has locked down the female lead, and there’s no question she has the pipes to be able to pull off this role. Keep reading to see a video of her absolutely slaying a cover of “Shallow,” the Lady Gaga/Bradley Cooper song from last year’s A Star is Born.
Deadline reports that Zegler has secured the lead role after Spielberg and his team auditioned more than 30,000 people. (For context, Alden Eherenreich won the role of young Han Solo after a casting call that “only” included around 3,000 people.) Zegler will make her film debut in this version of West Side Story playing Maria, the innocent younger sister of a gang leader in 1950s New York City. Maria ends up falling in love with Tony, a member of her brother’s rival gang, and since the musical is based on William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, you can probably figure out how this thing ends. (The Jets and the Sharks are the Montagues and the Capulets, but with a lot more dancing.)
Maria was played by Natalie Wood in the 1961 movie and her singing voice was later dubbed by Marni Nixon for most of the musical numbers. But based on this video of Zegler totally destroying “Shallow,” it doesn’t seem like she’ll need any help at all in that area:
— rachel zegler (@rachelzegler) December 14, 2018
“I am so thrilled to be playing the iconic role of Maria alongside this amazing cast,” Zegler said. “West Side Story was the first musical I encountered with a Latina lead character. As a Colombian-American, I am humbled by the opportunity to play a role that means so much to the Hispanic community.”
But Zegler isn’t the only new addition to the West Side Story cast. Ariana DeBose, a former So You Think You Can Dance contestant who went on to be in the original cast of Hamilton and give a Tony-nominated performance in Summer: The Donna Summer Musical, is playing Anita, the role that was played by Rita Moreno in the classic film. (Moreno has an expanded role in this remake as well, this time as a different character.) David Alvarez, who won a Tony for his work in Billy Elliott: The Musical, is playing Bernardo, Maria’s brother and the leader of the Sharks. Josh Andrés Rivera (Hamilton) will play Chino, a gang member and key figure in the story.
Filming is set to begin this summer. Tony Kushner (Munich, Lincoln) is writing the screenplay, which is being adapted from the original 1957 Broadway musical. This remake has been a passion project for Spielberg for years, though it remains to be seen if he’ll be able to recapture the magic of the first movie, which was nominated for 11 Oscars and won 10, including Best Picture.
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