West Side Story stars Isaac Powell, Shereen Pimentel, Dharon E. Jones, and the rest of the cast stopped by The Today Show to talk about the musical and how this new production mimics the world theatregoers live in today.
“We’re doing a West Side Story for the 21st century,” says Powell (Once On This Island), who plays Tony. “The words are still the same, the songs are still the same, the heart of it is still the same—we're just presenting it in a new way.” Check out their interview, below, ahead of Ivo van Hove’s revamped production opening February 20 at the Broadway Theatre.
Pimentel, who plays Maria, spoke about the choice to have the cast be predominantly people of color. “The Sharks and Jets were differentiated by skin tone in previous productions, but audiences won’t get such a delineating factor this time around. “You can be an African-American male or female and you can tell a Jet story and you can be mixed ethnically and still tell a Shark story.”
For his part, Jones said making his Broadway debut as an African-American Riff (the leader of the Jets—the white gang in Arthur Laurents, Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim, and Jerome Robbins’ original staging) was a life-changing dream. “I definitely still get those jitters having a new audience every night...but we always get excited.” The star stepped into the role of Riff after Ben Cook had to depart the production in January due to an injury.