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BB Casting Agency: Patina Miller as West Side Story’s Maria

One of my favorite musicals is West Side Story, that timeless Shakespearean romantic tale of young lovers who fight against the odds to be together. The story, set in New York’s West side in the mid-1950s during a time of racial tension, explores the rivalry between two street gangs. The Jets are a white gang and the Sharks are from Puerto Rico. In the midst of this drama, “Tony,” a former member of the Jets and best friend of the gang leader, “Riff,” falls in love with “Maria,” the sister of “Bernardo,” the leader of the Sharks. Unfortunately, their love escalates the tension between the gangs and leads to a tragic ending.

In my version of West Side Story, instead of Puerto Rican and white gangs, we’d replace those with African American and Latino gangs. With that switch, the perfect actress for the perfect role – the hopeless romantic female lead, “Maria,” – can only be played by Tony Award winner Patina Miller. While the “Maria” character is “supposed” to be a teenager, most of the actresses who’ve played the role on Broadway and on screen have been in their twenties. Carol Lawrence who originated the role in the 1957 Broadway production was 22 and Natalie Wood was 23 when she played the role on-screen. Miller, at 30, is older but she looks young enough to pull it off.

Miller made her West End and Broadway debuts playing “Deloris Van Cartier” in Sister Act and won the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for her lead role in Pippin. Vocally, she will excel with the Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim tunes, although the role calls for a soprano. But, it’s my dream, so we’ll have the musical arranger work out those details. She has boundless energy and she’s multitalented enough to pull off any role. Even one that was written for a young Puerto Rican girl.

Patina Miller and the cast of the 2013 Broadway revival of the musical PIPPIN, perform the number “Simple Joys” live on the Late Show with David Letterman.

Seriously, is there someone out there who can make this happen?

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