By SARAH SHMERLING | Editor-in-Chief
Those looking forward to seeing Palisadian Steven Spielberg’s movie version of “West Side Story” this December are going to have to wait a little bit longer. Originally slated to release in theaters on December 18, the film is now eyeing December 10, 2021, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Spielberg is directing and co-producing the American romantic musical drama, with a screenplay by Tony Kushner and choreography by Justin Peck.
“West Side Story” is an adaptation of the eponymous Broadway musical by Arthur Laurents, Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim, which is based loosely on Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet.” The musical took the world by storm when it first appeared on Broadway in 1957 and has been a beloved work since.
Set in the 1950s, the plot follows teenagers Tony and Maria, who, despite having affiliations with rival street gangs, fall in love in New York City.
Spielberg’s film iteration stars Ansel Elgort (“The Fault in Our Stars”) as Tony and Rachel Zegler as Maria. Zegler is a singer and songwriter who was one of 30,000 people to audition, according to a report on IMDb: She first played the role in a Performing Arts School presentation at Bergen Performing Arts Center.
“Thank you all so much for the support for our cast and crew concerning the delay of ‘West Side Story,’” Zegler wrote in a tweet on September 23. “It is beyond worth the wait, that we can promise.”
Other starring roles will be played by Ariana DeBose, David Alvarez, Mike Faist, Corey Stoll and Brian d’Arcy James.
Spielberg’s interest in the remake dates back to March 2014, which prompted 20th Century Fox to acquire rights to the project. Spielberg told Vanity Fair in a 2020 interview: “‘West Side Story’ was actually the first piece of popular music our family ever allowed into the home. I … fell complete in love with it as a kid. ‘West Side Story’ has been that one haunting temptation that I have finally given in to.”
Reports reveal that the film’s screenplay is expected to follow the Broadway script more closely than the 1961 film adaptation, which was directed by Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins.
Rita Moreno, a star in the original 1961 film, will appear in the 2021 version in a supporting role.
With the delay, the film will be released in the 60th anniversary year of the release of the original film.
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