Something’s coming—and she looks pretty!
Steven Spielberg’s upcoming big-screen remake of West Side Story, a musical about rival New York street gangs, has released a first look at Ariana DeBose in character as Anita, Puerto Rican gang leader Bernardo’s girlfriend, who sings the showstopper “America.”
DeBose earned a 2018 Tony nomination for her performance as Disco Donna in the Broadway bio-jukebox Summer: The Donna Summer Musical. She also worked hard for your money in musicals like Hamilton, A Bronx Tale, Pippin, Motown, and Bring It On!
DeBose spoke to NewNowNext last year about her decision to come out publicly as queer. “I never felt I had anything to hide, and I’ve never felt I had to claim a label,” she said. “I’ve always been open about my views and about loving whomever I love. But when an outlet approached me in 2015 to talk about who was dating, I realized I hadn’t really had a coming out. So I called my grandparents, like, ’Hey, just in case you hadn’t picked up the hint, I date both genders, I like what I like, but I do move toward women, so I hope you’re okay with that!’”
She also spoke about her interaction with LGBTQ fans on social media. “I get messages from young people I’ve helped find the courage to come out or to tell someone they like them,” she said. “I don’t take that lightly or for granted, so I try to be careful with my words and how I respond. I encourage young people to try new things, to be cautious without censoring yourself, and to allow yourself your feelings.”
The West Side Story cast also includes Ansel Elgort (Tony), Rachel Zegler (Maria), David Alvarez (Bernardo), Ana Isabelle (Rosalia), Corey Stoll (Lieutenant Schrank), Brian d’Arcy James (Officer Krupke), Curtiss Cook (Abe), Ezra Menas (Anybodys), Ben Cook (Mouthpiece), Sean Harrison Jones (Action), Mike Faist (Riff), Patrick Higgins (Baby John) Julius Anthony Rubio (Quique), Richard Zayas (Chago), Josh Andrés Rivera (Chino), Sebastian Serra (Braulio), Carlos Sánchez Falú (Pipo), and EGOT winner Rita Moreno as Valentina. Moreno, who won an Oscar for her performance as Anita in the original film, also serves as one of the film’s executive producers.
— Ariana DeBose (@ArianaDeBose) January 15, 2019
A casting notice posted last year specifically called for young Latinx performers to fill the lead Puerto Rican roles of Maria, Anita, and Bernardo. Like Moreno, DeBose has a Puerto Rican background.
The 1961 movie musical West Side Story is based on the 1957 Broadway musical of the same name, which was loosely inspired by Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. It features music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim.
The original film adaptation, directed by Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins, had a screenplay by Ernest Lehman based on Arthur Laurents’ libretto. The film won 10 Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
Directed and produced by Spielberg, the remake has a script by Tony- and Pulitzer Prize-winning Angels in America playwright Tony Kushner, who previously collaborated with Spielberg on the Oscar-winning biopic Lincoln.
The gay writer discussed his West Side Story screenplay in a 2017 interview with The Daily Beast. “I am not touching in any way the greatest score of a musical ever written,” he said. “I love the  film. Who doesn’t? I am not changing the story, the setting, the period. It is still the Upper West Side in the late 1950s, but I’m exploring the story.”
Currently in production for Twentieth Century Fox and Walt Disney Studios, West Side Story is scheduled for release on December 18, 2020.
West Side Story is also returning to Broadway later this year with a new revival directed by Ivo van Hove. Once on This Island star Isaac Powell, who is engaged to fellow Broadway actor Wesley Taylor, leads the cast as Tony.