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West Side Story: UK release date, cast, reactions, trailer and latest news

Everything you need to know about Steven Spielberg's remake of the classic musical West Side Story, with Ansel Elgort as Tony and newcomer Rachel Zegler playing Maria.

West Side Story
20th Century Studios
Published: Monday, 10th January 2022 at 1:50 pm

After being delayed for nearly a year due to the coronavirus pandemic, West Side Story landed in cinemas with a bang on 10th December 2021.

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One of the greatest American film directors of all time taking on one of the greatest American musicals of all time seemed like a sure-fire recipe for success – and so it’s hardly surprising that Steven Spielberg’s remake of West Side Story has earned three trophies at the Golden Globe Awards 2022. (Read more on this below).

The 1961 film, which starred Natalie Wood, Richard Beymer, and Rita Moreno was considered a seminal movie musical and reflected issues of the time including racial divisions and gang warfare.

Decades later, Spielberg has said those themes are of no less importance today. "It's not sad that love is still relevant, which it is, but love and hate, division, community, misunderstanding or refusal to listen - there are so many things that West Side Story knew about and reflected on in society in the 1950s that has even become more relevant and sadly more divided today," he told Sky News.

Talking about how he always wanted to remake the film, he added: "I've always thought that there was room, that there was a place for us, in a sense to basically reimagine West Side Story for the generation that may not have even heard of West Side Story and may need to, you know, share some of the values and some of the drama and all the great music and certainly the great intentions of the original creators of the Broadway show.

"So it was a series of getting more and more and more excited over the years until finally, I just said, 'Well, I'm either going to do it now or I'm never going to do it'."

Spielberg’s take on West Side Story boasts a star-studded cast including screenwriter Tony Kushner, composer Jeanine Tesori, choreographer Justin Peck, as well as Los Angeles Philharmonic conductor Gustavo Dudamel, who re-recorded the film’s Leonard Bernstein score.

The musical drama also features Ansel Elgort and Rachel Zegler in the lead roles, alongside Ariana DeBose and David Alvarez.

Here is everything you need to know about West Side Story.

West Side Story UK release date

Ansel Elgort as Tony and Rachel Zegler as Maria
Ansel Elgort as Tony and Rachel Zegler as Maria in 20th Century Studios’ West Side Story (Niko Tavernise) Photo by Niko Tavernise. © 2021 20th Century Studios.

West Side Story is due to be released on Friday, December 10, 2021

It was originally due to hit cinema screens in December 2020 but was delayed a year because of COVID-19.

Parent company Disney had initially hoped the new film would coincide with the original 1961 flick's release date and award wins, but alas it wasn't to be.

West Side Story Golden Globe Awards 2022

The remake of West Side Story won big at the Golden Globes Awards 2022 on Sunday 9th January 2022 in the pared-down ceremony which went ahead without the usual glitz or glamour – or even a broadcast partner – after allegations of a serious lack of diversity and ethical lapses in its voting body were made in 2021.

Spielberg’s West Side Story earned three trophies, including the award for the Best Musical or Comedy film, while Rachel Zegler, who stars as Maria, was named Best Actress in the genre.

Zegler’s co-star Ariana DeBose, who starred in the original Broadway cast of Hamilton in 2015, also took home a trophy for Best Supporting Actress in the category.

Reacting to her win, Zegler tweeted: “I got cast as María in West Side Story on 1/9/19. And I just won a golden globe for that same performance, on 1/9/22. Life is very strange.”

Meanwhile, reacting to her win and referring to the ongoing Golden Globes boycott, DeBose tweeted: “There is still work to be done, but when you’ve worked so hard on a project – infused with blood, sweat, tears and love – having the work seen and acknowledged is always going to be special. Thank you.”

West Side Story 2021 reviews

Ansel Egort
Ansel Egort was the first West Side Story cast member to be announced (Getty)

The first reviews are in for West Side Story (2021) and they are overall very positive.

Our four-star review praised the film even if it can't quite match up to the 1961 classic film.

It reads: "It does, however, come far closer to equalling it than it had any right to – and should definitely go down as a major hit."

We also made sure to single out Rachel Zegler, Ariana DeBose and Mike Faist for praise in their performances and we were not the only ones.

The Guardian gave the film five stars and noted: "No one but Spielberg could have brought it off, creating a movie in which Leonard Bernstein’s score and Stephen Sondheim’s lyrics blaze out with fierce new clarity."

They add: "His mastery of technique is thrilling; I gave my heart to this poignant American fairytale of doomed love."

However, The Independent did question some storyline choices in relation to certain scenes in their three-star review.

They noted: "That said, anyone who goes into Spielberg’s West Side Story expecting radical revisionism will find exactly the same themes as before, only now repeated a little more forcefully."

Overall, the picture is mostly positive, however, with much praise towards select cast members. Here is what we thought of the remake.

West Side Story 2021 Rotten Tomatoes score

West Side Story now has an overall consensus on review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes, with 94% of the 90 reviews counted having rated the film as "Fresh".

The critical consensus adds: "Steven Spielberg's West Side Story presents a new look at the classic musical that lives up to its beloved forebear -- and in some respects might even surpass it."

The previous 1961 film has a rating of 93% on Rotten Tomatoes but is widely regarded as one of the greatest musical films of all-time.

West Side Story cast

west-side-story-2020

The first cast member to be announced was Hollywood star Ansel Elgort. After breakout roles in the Divergent series and The Fault in Our Stars, Elgort was nominated for a Golden Globe for his performance in Baby Driver (2017) and will be playing the lead role of Tony in West Side Story. He has big boots to fill, following in the footsteps of Larry Kert who took on the role in the 1957 Broadway musical, and Richard Beymer who played Tony in the 1961 film adaptation.

Playing Tony's lover Maria is teenager Rachel Zegler. The Columbian-American singer-songwriter originates from New Jersey and had no previous screen credits prior to her casting. She was scouted for the film after posting a video of herself singing ‘I Feel Pretty’ from the musical. Zegler already had an impressive social media presence, following her cover of Lady Gaga’s ‘Shallow’ (from A Star is Born), which she posted on YouTube. She has also already played Maria in a school production of West Side Story.

Elsewhere, Ariana DeBose takes on the role of Anita, Bernardo's girlfriend, in the new film, taking over from Rita Moreno who won an Oscar for the 1961 film as Anita.

Meanwhile, David Alvarez portrays Sharks leader and Maria's brother Bernardo, taking over from George Chakiris in the 1961 version who also won an Oscar for his performance.

Smaller roles have been given to some familiar faces, such as Corey Stoll (House of Cards, Ant-Man) who will be playing Lieutenant Schrank in the new movie, while Tony-nominated Mike Faist, who rose to fame as Connor Murphy in the hit musical Dear Evan Hansen, stars as leader of the Jets, Riff.

Other cast members include Brian d’Arcy James as Officer Krupke, plus roles for Ana Isabelle, Jamila Velazquez, and Paloma Garcia Lee.

Who does Rita Moreno play in the 2021 film?

Rita Moreno in West Side Story (2021)
Rita Moreno in West Side Story (2021) 20th Century Studios

Rita Moreno – who won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for playing the part of Anita in the 1961 adaptation – has also been cast in the remake.

Screenwriter Tony Kushner has created a new role for her, a part similar to Doc in the 1961 musical, under the new name of Valentina.

In the film, Valentina is the widow of Doc and now runs the drug store they used to run together but on her own.

Similarly to Doc in the original film, Valentina serves as a guide and mentor to Tony but also delivers some moral judgement to the Jets boys.

The mixed-race relationship between Valentina and Doc also draws parallels between Tony and Maria's story.

Moreno also sings the classic song Somewhere.

West Side Story trailer

The first West Side Story trailer was released during the 93rd Academy Awards on Sunday 25th April as the glitzy ceremony took place in Union Station in Los Angeles, California.

In the clip, Ansel Elgort can be seen as Tony and Rachel Zegler portrays Maria while they dance through the ballrooms and streets of New York City.

The video features Oscars 2021 pre-show host Ariana DeBose as the fiery Anita and the film is already being hailed as a contender for an Academy Award at the 2022 Oscars.

The new teaser is set to the song 'Somewhere (There’s A Place For Us)' and it shows rival gangs the Jets and the Sharks as they are brought together in this love story, inspired by Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.

Other songs such as 'Dance at the Gym' and 'Tonight' can be heard in the video.

A full trailer was released in September which showed off even more footage.

Director Steven Spielberg appears to be staying close to the original movie with a recreation of the impressive opening dance number.

Why are they remaking West Side Story?

Back in March 2014, Steven Spielberg spoke of his interest in remaking West Side Story, which promoted 20th Century Fox to buy the rights to the project.

He told Vanity Fair last year: “West Side Story was actually the first piece of popular music our family ever allowed in the home. I fell completely in love with it as a kid.”

It was later revealed in July 2017 that playwright Tony Kushner, who previously worked with Spielberg on his 2012 film Munich, was writing the screenplay for the movie.

Will there be any original songs?

“No one will leave the movie without hearing all the classic songs," said screenwriter Kushner, who also confirmed he has been working with original lyricist Stephen Sondheim.

The celebrated musical theatre pioneer, who wrote the lyrics for West Side Story, died in December 2021, and Spielberg paid tribute to him with a recent statement.

“Stephen Sondheim was a gigantic figure in American culture — one of our country’s greatest songwriters, a lyricist and composer of real genius, and a creator of some of the most glorious musical dramas ever written,” he said.

“Steve and I became friends only recently, but we became good friends and I was surprised to discover that he knew more about movies than almost anyone I’d ever met.”

Although the film alters the order of some of the songs from the 1961 version, in some cases this draws closer to the original Broadway show's order of songs.

In a big change-up, expect to see Ansel Elgort's Tony sing the track Cool and Rita Moreno's Valentina sing Somewhere.

Kushner stated he would be keeping the musical numbers the same and the story would be more similar to the original Broadway show than the 1961 film.

West Side Story 2021 soundtrack

Here is the running order of the songs to expect in the film as indicated by the released soundtrack.

  1. "Prologue" – Orchestra
  2. "La Borinqueña (Sharks Version)" – Bernardo, Quique, Braulio & Sharks
  3. "Jet Song" – Riff, Ice, Diesel, Big Deal, Baby John & Jets
  4. "Something's Coming" – Tony
  5. "The Dance at the Gym: Blues, Promenade" – Orchestra
  6. "The Dance at the Gym: Mambo" – Orchestra
  7. "The Dance at the Gym: Cha-Cha, Meeting Scene, Jump" – Maria & Tony, Orchestra
  8. "Maria" – Tony
  9. "Balcony Scene (Tonight)" – María & Tony
  10. "Transition to Scherzo" / "Scherzo" - Orchestra
  11. "America" – Anita, Bernardo, Rosalía, Luz, Sharks & Shark Girls
  12. "Gee, Officer Krupke" – Diesel, Big Deal, A-Rab, Mouthpiece, Snowboy, Baby John & Balkan
  13. "One Hand, One Heart" – Tony & María
  14. "Cool" – Tony & Riff
  15. "Tonight (Quintet)" – Riff, Bernardo, Anita, Tony, María, Jets & Sharks
  16. "The Rumble" – Orchestra
  17. "I Feel Pretty" – María, Luz, Rosalía, Fausta, Charita, Lluvia, Meche & Provi
  18. "Somewhere" – Valentina
  19. "A Boy Like That/I Have a Love" – Anita & María
  20. "Mambo (Reprise)" – Orchestra
  21. "Finale" – María, Tony & Orchestra

What is West Side Story about?

A forbidden love story between Tony and Maria, this adaptation of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet gives the original story a musical twist. Set in 1950s America, West Side Story sees rival gangs the ‘Sharks’ and the ‘Jets’ compete for territory on the streets. It just so happens that Tony is a member of the Jets, and Maria is the younger sister of the Sharks' leader Bernardo. Imagine the Montagues and the Capulets with more dancing and fewer rhyming couplets.

Attempting to hide their romance, Maria and Tony begin to meet in secret, unaware of the heartbreak that lies ahead.

Previous versions of West Side Story

Natalie Wood and Richard Beymer in West Side Story, Getty
Natalie Wood and Richard Beymer in West Side Story (1961)

The collective that is Sondheim, Jerome Robbins, Leonard Bernstein and Arthur Laurents created the musical together for Broadway in 1957. It won two Tony awards in 1958 for choreography and set design, and it was nominated for Best Musical only to lose out to the debut of The Music Man.

The film version was released in 1961 and amplified the success of the story. Featuring Natalie Wood and Richard Beymer as Maria and Tony, the movie took home a total of ten Oscars at the Academy Awards in 1962, including Best Supporting Actor and Actress, Best Direction and Best Picture.

Disney's West Side Story is set to be released on 10th December, 2021.

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