West Side Story Casts An Incredible 17-Year-Old Newcomer Opposite Ansel Elgort

Remember the name Rachel Zegler, because she just managed to achieve every theatre kid’s dream: doing a production of West Side Story in high school, and then actually getting to make West Side Story on film.

It’s not just any film, either — the upcoming adaptation is being helmed by none other than Steven Spielberg, who put out an open casting call for Latinx actors last year. Zegler, a 17-year-old New Jersey High School student, responded to the call with a video of herself singing “Tonight” and “Me Siento Hermosa,” and her movie musical-ready vocals nabbed her the role of Maria opposite Ansel Elgort‘s Tony. It will be her (and her phenomenal eyebrows’) film debut.

“I am so thrilled to be playing the iconic role of Maria alongside this amazing cast,” Zegler said in a statement to Deadline. “West Side Story was the first musical I encountered with a Latina lead character. As a Colombian-American, I am humbled by the opportunity to play a role that means so much to the Hispanic community.”

After news of her casting broke, Zegler added on Twitter, “I could say so many things but all I can muster is thank you.”

Zegler reportedly beat out over 30,000 hopefuls for the role of lovestruck Maria, played by Natalie Wood in the 1961 classic. But even though this is the teen’s big break, she’s already established herself as a golden voice on the internet. Her YouTube channel — where she performs everything from Top 40 bops to Broadway standards — boasts over 3.4 million views, and she recently went viral on Twitter with her cover of Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper’s A Star Is Born duet, “Shallow.” (You can, and should, see her full cover here).

Zegler wasn’t the only actor to be added to the West Side Story cast sheet on Monday (January 14). Deadline reports that Ariana DeBose, who earned a Tony nomination for Summer: The Donna Summer Musical, will play Anita. Meanwhile, Broadway veteran and Tony winner David Alvarez will play Bernardo, while Josh Andrés Rivera, recently in the first national tour of Hamilton, will play Chino. As previously announced, Elgort scored the role of Tony, while EGOT-winner Rita Moreno, who won an Oscar for her portrayal of Anita in the original film, will play a new version of the character Doc.

West Side Story is set to begin filming this summer, which hopefully means some glimpses of Zegler and Elgort as star-crossed lovers Maria and Tony won’t be too far off. In the meantime, check out their respective renditions of La La Land‘s “City of Stars” to get you excited.

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