Here’s How the New ‘West Side Story’ Cast Compares to the Original Stars—See the Photos

West Side Story - Maria 2021 vs. Maria 1961
Photo: Courtesy of Everett Collection.

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Sixty years after this musical’s last film adaptation, audiences can finally experience a new West Side Story cast—and this time around, the casting couldn’t have been any better.

West Side Story, which is based on the 1957 Broadway musical of the same name, was adapted for film for the first time in 1961. Directed by Jerome Robbins and Robert Wise, the original went on to become a quick classic; but not without its own controversy. For those unfamiliar, West Side Story tells the story of two street gangs—the Jets, a white gang led by all “American” boys, and the Sharks, a group of Puerto Ricans—whose 1950s turf war in New York City gets even more complicated when Tony, co-founder of the Jets, falls in love with a Shark member’s sister. Though a majority of the characters in West Side Story are Latinx, the cast of the original film adaptation was predominately white, sparking issues over stereotyping and misrepresentation for viewers today.

For 2021’s West Side Story, however, director Steven Spielberg went to great lengths to feature a more accurate and diverse cast. In this adaptation, Latinx stars speak Spanish without subtitles—a choice that Spielberg reveals was an intentional way of centering this language as American, too. Keep on reading up ahead to meet the new West Side Story cast compared to their counterparts in the original film.

María

west side story maria Heres How the New West Side Story Cast Compares to the Original Stars—See the Photos

Image: Courtesy of Everett Collection.

In the original West Side Story, the role of Maria was played by actress Natalie Wood. For 2021’s West Side Story, the role went to newcomer Rachel Zegler, who beat out 30,000 other applicants when she was only 17 years old.

Tony

west side story tony Heres How the New West Side Story Cast Compares to the Original Stars—See the Photos

Image: Courtesy of Everett Collection.

The Fault in Our Stars actor Ansel Elgort plays the lead role of Tony in the 2021 West Side Story cast. His role was originally played by actor Richard Beymer, who went on to star as Ben Horne on the long-running television series Twin Peaks.

Bernardo

west side story bernardo Heres How the New West Side Story Cast Compares to the Original Stars—See the Photos

Image: Courtesy of Everett Collection.

Bernardo, the leader of the Sharks gang in West Side Story, was originally played by famous dancer George Chakiris. The Hollywood star went on to win both an Oscar and a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor for his role in the 1961 original film. In 2021’s West Side Story cast, the role of Bernardo was filled by actor David Alvarez, who is one of the youngest Tony Award winners for Best Actor in a Leading Role thanks to his appearance in the Broadway production of Billy Elliot, the Musical.

Anita

west side story anita Heres How the New West Side Story Cast Compares to the Original Stars—See the Photos

Image: Courtesy of Everett Collection.

Though she’s a newcomer to the big screen, Ariana DeBose already has some impressive musical credits under her belt. DeBose—who plays Anita in 2021’s West Side Story cast—has appeared in Broadway musicals like Bring It On: The Musical, Motown: The Musical, and Hamilton. She also starred in the lead role of Donna Summer in Summer: The Donna Summer Musical, which landed her a nomination for Best Featured Actress in a Musical at the Tony Awards. DeBose had big shoes to fill in the role of Anita, which was originally played by icon Rita Moreno in the 1961 West Side Story cast.

Riff

west side story riff Heres How the New West Side Story Cast Compares to the Original Stars—See the Photos

Image: Courtesy of Everett Collection.

Oscar-nominated actor Russ Tamblyn starred in the role of Riff, leader of the Jets gang, in the original West Side Story cast. The actor went on to star as Dr. Lawrence Jacoby opposite his West Side Story co-star, Richard Beymer, on the television series Twin Peaks in the ’90s. For 2021’s West Side Story cast, the film cast look-alike star Mike Faist, who originated the role of Connor in the famous Broadway musical, Dear Evan Hansen.

Valentina

west side story valentina Heres How the New West Side Story Cast Compares to the Original Stars—See the Photos

Image: Courtesy of Everett Collection.

As we know from above, Rita Moreno famously played Anita, Bernardo’s girlfriend and Maria’s close friend, in the 1961 West Side Story cast. While she’s not reprising her role in the 2021 adaptation, she’s still a part of the new West Side Story cast as a character named Valentina.

West Side Story premiered in December 2021. Here’s how to watch it for free.

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