Belfast Telegraph

West Side Story Prom has a new Maria following ‘whitewashing’ controversy

The concerts mark the centenary of the birth of Leonard Bernstein.

The BBC Proms concert performance of West Side Story has a new Maria following complaints about “whitewashing”.

Broadway star Sierra Boggess announced earlier this year that she was quitting the role of Maria, who is Puerto Rican, after a backlash in the US.

BBC Proms has now announced that Mikaela Bennett will lead the cast as Maria alongside Ross Lekites who was named previously as Tony at the Royal Albert Hall.

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Sierra Boggess (Ian West/PA)

The concerts mark the centenary of the birth of Leonard Bernstein, who composed the musical about rival gangs in New York.

The BBC Proms said in a statement: “The BBC Proms is delighted that Mikaela Bennett will play Maria in the two concert performances of West Side Story. She has been cast on her merit and suitability for the role.”

Bennett performed with the Philadelphia Orchestra and New York Philharmonic’s Young People’s Concerts in performances of West Side Story, as well as taking part in Bernstein On Broadway at the Kennedy Centre.

In April, Boggess told fans on Facebook: “After much reflection, I’ve realised that if I were to do this concert, it would once again deny Latinas the opportunity to sing this score, as well as deny the importance of seeing themselves represented onstage.”

Steven Spielberg has been auditioning for a big-screen remake of West Side Story and has been  seeking Latino and Latina actors for the roles.

Maria was played by US-Russian actress Natalie Wood in the famous 1961 film.

From Belfast Telegraph