Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Is the New West Side Story Cursed? Second Actor Sidelined by Injury and Replaced, Opening Date Pushed Back, Creative Team Still Up in Air


The new version of “West Side Story” was supposed to open on Broadway on February 6th.

But then the actor who plays Tony, Isaac Powell, fell and hurt his knee badly. His understudy stepped in. Opening night was pushed back to February 20th, when Powell will presumably be healed.

Now Ben Cook, who is said to be excellent as Riff, the other male lead, has hurt himself. The show isn’t saying what happened and they’re not waiting for Cook to get better. They’ve replaced him– completely– with Dharon E. Jones, who was already playing another role.

Director Ivo van Hove is using color blind casting, so Jones– who is African American — is replacing Cook, who is white with reddish brown hair. Powell, who is dark haired and Latinx, is playing Tony, described in the show even now as “a Polak.”

Meanwhile, even though the box office has been great over the holidays, there’s still grumbling from the audience about many changes van Hove has made to the legacy musical. New wave choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker has chucked Jerome Robbins’ dances and replaced them with her own, odd pieces. There’s no snapping, I’m told, in the “Cool” number. Also Officer Krupke brandishes a gun. What used to be a scene of Anita being harassed by the boys now is an implied rape. And Anita’s great song, “I Feel Pretty,” is gone. Producers are hoping new audiences won’t know the difference. But more traditional choreographer Sergio Trujillo has been brought in to try and smoothe out Keersmacker’s changes.

Stay tuned…

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedmanhttps://www.showbiz411.com
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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