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Steven Spielberg's West Side Story to Host Open Auditions in Miami

click to enlarge Miami City Ballet dancers in West Side Story Suite, 2014. Choreography by Jerome Robbins. - PHOTO © ALBERTO OVIEDO.
Miami City Ballet dancers in West Side Story Suite, 2014. Choreography by Jerome Robbins.
Photo © Alberto Oviedo.
Millions of fans grew up watching West Side Story, longing for the day they could snap their fingers alongside those effortlessly suave Sharks and Jets. Well, thanks to 20th Century Fox, those childhood dreams could turn into a reality. Prepare your best show tune, break out those jazz shoes, and head over to Miami City Ballet on Monday, October 29, for the remake's open casting call.

Casting director Cindy Tolan and her team have released a notice about the audition that seeks applicants for male/female Sharks and Jets to appear in the reboot of the 1961 musical film. The open call recommends that participants come warmed up, wearing proper attire, and ready to dance. Hopefuls should be aged 15 to 25 with a "strong dance background" and "must be able to sing." In particular, the notice specifies, "the Sharks are Latinx, and the Jets are Caucasian." Sign-in for men runs from 9 to 10:30 a.m. October 29; women are scheduled for 1 to 2:30 p.m. 

Boasting a timeless soundtrack, West Side Story first stole the hearts of Americans when it appeared on Broadway in 1957. A 1961 musical film adaption directed by Jerome Robbins and Robert Wise followed to a favorable critic response, winning ten of the 11 Academy Awards for which it was nominated. The epic Romeo and Juliet-inspired story about a doomed NYC love affair between members of rival gangs saw Broadway revivals in 1989 and 2009, alongside a slew of international stage productions from 1960 to 2010.

In an industry cluttered with reboots, 50 years is more than enough time to call for a remake of the silver screen sing-along affair. Bringing this vision to life is directorial legend Steven Spielberg. Spielberg told The Hollywood Reporter in 2016 that he's been trying to get the rights to the project for 15 years. The degree of stardom attached to this West Side Story is further elevated by Pulitzer Prize winner and Oscar nominee Tony Kushner, who adapted the musical for the 20th Century Fox movie.

Back in April, lead roles for the production were sought via open auditions everywhere from Los Angeles to Orlando, with producers screening thousands across the country. Ansel Elgort (known for The Fault in Our Stars, Baby Driver, and Divergent) was recently cast to star as the film's lead, Tony, but no word is out yet on who will play the top Maria role opposite the young Hollywood actor.

A look at casting director Tolan's Twitter feed suggests they are still searching for Elgort's Maria, as well as actors for supporting roles Anita (made famous by Oscar-winning Rita Moreno), Bernando (originally played by George Chakiris), and Chino (Jose De Vega). What's also explicit is this West Side Story's focus on staying true to the diversity of the original characters — something the 1961 movie failed to do.
Announcements posted online state actors and dancers of "Latino/Hispanic" ethnicity are wanted for the Sharks' roles. Cindy Tolan Casting and Spielberg's Amblin Partners have not responded to a New Times interview request.

Fancy yourself a new-and-improved Shark or Jet? Then clear your calendar for October 29 and get ready to twirl your heart out. You might just end up joining the cast of a production gearing up to be spectacular.

Miami Open Dance Call: 20th Century Fox West Side Story. 9 to 10:30 a.m. (for men) and 1 to 2:30 p.m. (for women) Monday, October 29, at Miami City Ballet. 2200 Liberty Ave., Miami Beach; 305-929-7000;