Everything you need to know about Steven Spielberg’s new West Side Story for 2021 – cast, plot, release date and more

Pictured from Left to Right: Anybodys (Ezra Menas), Mouthpiece (Ben Cook), Action (Sean Harrison Jones); Jets leader Riff (Mike Faist); Baby John (Patrick Higgins); Tony (Ansel Elgort) and Maria (Rachel Zegler); Maria’s brother and Sharks leader Bernardo (David Alvarez); and Sharks members Quique (Julius Anthony Rubio), Chago (Ricardo Zayas), Chino (Josh Andrés Rivera), Braulio (Sebastian Serra) and Pipo (Carlos Sánchez Falú)

©2019 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

Dances! Fights! Dance-fights! Steven Spielberg’s new West Side Story for 2021 is a stunning retelling of the immortal Broadway musical.

Read our insider guide, then book your tickets for tonight, tonight…

West Side Story release date: 10th December

What’s the backstory to Steven Spielberg’s new West Side Story for 2021?

Cupid has a lot to answer for. Scan back through cinema history and you’ll see that everybody’s favourite airborne, arrow-pinging cherub is responsible for bringing together most of the big screen’s doomed couples. Romeo and Juliet. Bonnie and Clyde. Jack and Rose. All of them star-crossed lovers undone by issues like family, cops and icebergs.

But even measured against these bad romances, there’s never been a mismatch so guaranteed to crash and burn as Tony and Maria from West Side Story.

Starting life as a 1957 Broadway production – with book by Arthur Laurents, music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim – then adapted into a ten-Oscar-winning 1961 movie, the original West Side Story was an instant classic whose social themes got under your skin.

Sure, West Side Story might have pulled us in with the dance routines and deceptively cheerful standards like America, Tonight and I Feel Pretty. But then this supposed romantic toe-tapper darkened – examining race, revenge, the suffocation of family and the cold hand of death.

On stage and screen, countless millions have fallen for West Side Story. And luckily for us, the young Steven Spielberg was one of them, paving the way for his new adaptation of West Side Story for 2021.

“I grew up surrounded by classical music,” the mighty director told Vanity Fair. “West Side Story was actually the first piece of popular music our family ever allowed into the home. I absconded with it – this was the cast album from the 1957 Broadway musical – and just fell completely in love with it as a kid.”

Ansel Elgort as Tony and Rachel Zegler as Maria in 20th Century Studios’ WEST SIDE STORY

©2019 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

What’s the plot of West Side Story in 2021?

Picking up the major plot strands of the 1957 original, West Side Story in 2021 is the tale of a turf war between two rival New York street gangs, with the local white kids of the Jets butting heads with the tough Puerto Rican émigrés who live up to their billing as the Sharks.

If this world of stand-offs and flick-knives is dangerous, at least the battlelines are clearly drawn. But all that changes when Maria comes to town to visit her brother (and Sharks leader) Bernardo, falls for the Jets-aligned Tony and turns a simple tale of fisticuffs into a nuanced story of betrayal, sacrifice and the terrible price of following your heart.

As Bernardo’s girlfriend, Anita, warns Maria in the West Side Story 2021 trailer: “If you go with him, no one will ever forgive you.”

It’s no spoiler to say there will be blood. But with Pulitzer-Prize winning screenwriter Tony Kushner resuming a partnership with Spielberg that previously scored him Oscar nominations for the Munich and Lincoln screenplays, West Side Story in 2021 might not play out quite how you’re expecting. As Stephen Sondheim told The Late Show: “For those of you who know the show, there’s going to be some real surprises.”

 


 

Who’s in the West Side Story cast?

Put two blocks of wood in front of the camera and nobody will care how it works out for them. Just as it always has, the success of West Side Story in 2021 lives or dies on the chemistry between the two leads.

Rachel Zegler as Maria in 20th Century Studios’ WEST SIDE STORY

©2019 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

It’s staggering to think that Rachel Zegler has never appeared in a feature film before – and impossibly sweet to learn that she got the gig after sending a video of herself singing I Feel Pretty to the studio’s generic email address.

Her turn as Maria captures every shade of this fascinating character, whether that’s the hopeful twinkle as she serenades the sleeping city with Tonight, or the agony as cruel circumstance tears Tony from her arms. 

Critically, Zegler doesn’t play Maria as a goodie-goodie.

“Every Juliet-based character is pure and innocent,” considered Zegler in Town & Country. “She’s the Virgin Mary and she can do no wrong. But in reality she’s 18. She’s discovering so much about herself and the way she thinks about the world.”

Ansel Elgort as Tony in 20th Century Studios’ WEST SIDE STORY

©2019 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

Meanwhile, whoever plays Tony has to be – literally – worth dying for.

For West Side Story in 2021, the role deservedly falls to Ansel Elgort.

The 27-year-old New Yorker might be best-known as the cancer patient from The Fault In Our Stars and the silky-smooth getaway ace in Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver. But trust us, he’ll be making space on his résumé for this powerful portrayal of a young man torn between his heart and the laws of the street.

Tony and Maria might be the protagonists, but Spielberg’s take on West Side Story for 2021 gives the supporting cast room to shine.

Ariana DeBose as Anita in 20th Century Studios’ WEST SIDE STORY

©2019 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

Ariana DeBose strikes just the right blend of grit and wisdom as Anita. Brian D’Arcy James brilliantly reboots the neighbourhood’s long-suffering Sergeant Krupke. Look out, too, for former Billy Elliot The Musical dancer David Alvarez, here radiating menace as Bernardo in his film debut.

Elsewhere in the West Side Story cast – and unlike the 1961 movie – Spielberg notably insisted on Hispanic actors portraying characters of that ethnicity.

“They brought themselves,” he told Vanity Fair, “and everything they believe and everything about them.”

What do we know about the West Side Story 2021 dance routines?

With its spinning skirts, exuberant street routines and tightly synced gangland swagger, West Side Story in 2021 is a visceral experience that picks up the gauntlet from recent dance-dramas like In The Heights.

Behind it all is Justin Peck: fabled dancer from the New York Ballet and the choreographer who turned the West Side Story cast into oiled machines.

As Elgort told Stephen Colbert of the intensive ballet routines: “It changes your whole body, It fixes your posture. It feels great.”

The cast of 20th Century Studios’ WEST SIDE STORY

©2019 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

Why should I hit the ODEON to watch West Side Story in 2021?

Remember how good it felt to watch La La Land on the big screen and come out walking on air? That’s the power of a great movie musical and seeing West Side Story in 2021 is the reminder you need.

Official poster for 20th Century Studios’ WEST SIDE STORY

If you still need a final push to book tickets for 10th December, take it from Sondheim himself.

“It’s terrific,” the veteran composer told The Late Show. “Everybody go. You’ll really have a good time. The whole thing has real sparkle to it and real energy, and it feels fresh. It’s really first-grade. Movie musicals are hard to do and this one, Spielberg and Kushner really nailed it.”

 


 

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