West Side Story star Rachel Zegler is in the middle of a whirlwind at the moment, with the release of her first movie. She was cast as Maria while still in High School and her first director was Steven Spielberg – quite the debut! The much-delayed movie musical has now finally been released and is generating awards buzz.
But Zegler has been telling Good Morning America that once she beat out 30,000 other hopefuls and went through a year-long audition process, the first thing that she asked Spielberg was “can I still do Shrek the Musical at my High School?”
Spielberg responded with; “I produced the original Shrek, of course you can do Shrek the Musical at your High School!” Zegler says that “they ended up altering the rehearsal schedule around for me, so I was able to do it, which was amazing.”
Zegler also discussed working with Stephen Sondheim, who passed away a week ago; “There was such a beautiful connection in knowing that when he was 24, he wrote these lyrics that lasted 64 years, to now. As this is my first professional gig, and West Side Story was his – it’s an absolutely wonderful connection to have.”
Spielberg’s West Side Story is the second movie adaptation of the stage musical, after the film which is now considered a classic was released sixty years ago, starring Natalie Wood as Maria. Spielberg and writer Tony Kushner have revisited the original stage version and made some different decisions to the 1961 movie.
It is Spielberg’s first musical and many people were surprised when the project was announced. The cast is largely made up of relative newcomers, such as Ariana DeBose as Anita.
Rachel Zegler has been cast as Snow White in the upcoming live-action version of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves for Disney. Gal Gadot has been cast as the Evil Queen.
If you’re counting down the days until West Side Story is released in cinemas, check out our guide to the best musicals!