David Alvarez, Ariana DeBose and More Join Spielberg's WEST SIDE STORY

‘West Side Story’ Remake Casts Newcomer as Maria

The 17-year-old will star opposite Ansel Elgort, who is portraying Tony, the co-founder of the Jets, in the adaptation.

When Steven Spielberg put out a casting call for the role of Maria in West Side Story, it stipulated: "Must be able to sing". (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.

'West Side Story was the first musical I encountered with a Latina lead character. Zegler saw the notice on Twitter and submitted a video of herself singing "Tonight" and "Me Siento Hermosa" ("I Feel Pretty").

Rachel Zegler, 17, was chosen from 30,000 applicants after responding to a casting call for Latino and Latina actors in January 2018.

Two years ago she set up her own YouTube channel featuring homemade videos, some recorded in the bathroom, performing cover versions of pop songs and show tunes.

On Tuesday, Zegler wrote on Twitter that she "could say so many things" in regards to the announcement "but all I can muster is thank you".

Originally a 1957 Broadway musical scored by Leonard Bernstein, West Side Story sets the love story of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet against a backdrop of warring gangs in 1950s NY.

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Added Zegler: "I am so thrilled to be playing the iconic role of Maria alongside this wonderful cast". Moreno will also be an executive producer of the film, reports Deadline.

Natalie Wood, who played Maria in the film, was of Russian descent.

Spielberg's adaptation of West Side Story is set to begin filming in the summer of 2019.

"... As a Colombian-American, I am humbled by the opportunity to play a role that means so much to the Hispanic community", she added.

Screenwriter Tony Kushner has said that the new movie will take its cues from the original 1957 Broadway musical, rather than the film, and that all of the classic songs will be included.

With music and lyrics by Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim, the movie won ten Oscars, including Best Picture.

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