Rita Moreno to Star in the Feature Film “The Prank”

Rita Moreno is pranking around…

The 89-year-old Puerto Rican actress, singer and dancer, an EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar & Tony Award winner) has landed a starring role in the feature film The Prank, which will be directed by Maureen Bharoocha.

Rita Moreno

Moreno will star opposite Connor Kalopsis and Ramona Young.

The Prank follows two high school students who play a prank on their physics teacher, Mrs. Wheeler, played by Moreno. When she fails them on a test; they teach the imperious, demanding, insulting instructor a lesson by falsely accusing her of the murder of a missing student.

Other cast in The Prank includes Keith David, Meredith Salenger, Jonathan Kimmel, Nathan Janak and Kate Flannery.

Filming begins this month in and around Los Angeles.

The dark comedy is written by Rebecca Flinn-White & Zak White.

“Rita Moreno is a force of nature and an icon who continues to redefine herself,” said Bharoocha. “Her brilliant comedic mind lends itself to the perfect ‘Mrs. Wheeler’, a character we have never seen her play, and one that will no doubt surprise audiences.”

Moreno has won an Oscar (West Side Story), a Tony (The Ritz), two Emmys (for her turns respectively in 1977 and 1978 on The Muppet Show and Rockford Files), and a Grammy (Best Children’s Album for The Electric Company).

Moreno has starred on Broadway and London’s West End, appeared in more than 40 feature films and has performed in numerous regional theaters, including her one-woman show, Life Without Makeup, at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre. She recently co-starred in the critically acclaimed Latinx reimagining of Norman Lear’s classic sitcom One Day At A Time.

Her documentary, Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It, produced by Lear, Lin Manuel Miranda and Brent Miller had its world debut at the Sundance Film Festival this year. The film, which was met with acclaim from critics and audiences alike, will have its television debut on PBS’ American Masters nationwide on October 5.

Moreno also co-stars and is an executive producer of the Steven Spielberg remake of West Side Story, set to open on December 10.

The recipient of the Peabody Career Achievement Award and the Kennedy Center Honor for her lifetime contributions to American culture, she was also honored by her peers as the 50th recipient of the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award.

Moreno’s all-Spanish-language album, Una Vez Más, was produced by her good friend Emilio Estefan, and she is a New York Times bestselling author with her first book, Rita Moreno: A Memoir. Moreno has received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush and the National Medal of Arts from President Barack Obama.

Rachel Zegler to Star as Snow White in Disney’s Live-Action Adaptation of the Classic Animated Film

Rachel Zegler’s royal coronation is around the corner…

The 20-year-old half-Colombian American actress and singer will star as Snow White in Disney’s live-action adaptation of the classic film that started it all for the studio’s legendary slate of animated features.

Rachel Zegler,

Marc Webb will direct the film, with Marc Platt producing. Production is expected to begin in 2022.

“Rachel’s extraordinary vocal abilities are just the beginning of her gifts,” said Webb of the actress who will star as Maria in Steven Spielberg’s new retelling of West Side Story. “Her strength, intelligence and optimism will become an integral part of rediscovering the joy in this classic Disney fairytale.”

The original Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs cartoon, based on the Brothers Grimm fairytale, was released in 1938.

It was Disney’s inaugural animated feature and became a massive success for the studio.

Insiders say the live-action film will expand upon the story and music from the original. Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, the Oscar– and Tony Award-winning duo behind La La LandThe Greatest Showman and Dear Evan Hansen, will write new songs for the film.

The studio had been taking its time on the live-action adaptation because they wanted to get the music right, and insiders says higher-ups are excited with what Pasek and Paul have come up with so far.

As for the casting process, Webb and studio execs had been meeting with talent for several months for the role of Snow White. Zegler’s auditions impressed everyone, insiders say, but another factor was footage from West Side Story that blew away the Disney studio brass who’ve seen it, and helped push the decision across the finish line.

The casting also marks a step in the right direction of Disney diversifying its Disney Princess characters, after tapping Halle Bailey to play Ariel in the upcoming live-action The Little Mermaid film.

Zegler was just 17 when she beat out more than 30,000 actresses for the lead role of Maria in West Side Story. The new adaptation will debut on December 10 and also stars Ansel Elgort and Rita Moreno.

She’ll also star in her first big comic-book film, joining Zachary Levi in D.C.’s Shazam! Fury of the Gods.

Roadside Attractions Acquires North American Rights to Rita Moreno’s Documentary “Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided To Go For It”

Rita Moreno is ready to bring her life story to America…

Roadside Attractions has acquired North American distribution rights to the 2021 Sundance Film Festival documentary Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided To Go For It, about the 89-year-old Latina living legend.

Rita MorenoA release is planned for June 18.

Roadside’s deal excludes the television license to PBSAmerican Masters, which will present the exclusive U.S. broadcast premiere of the doc after it hits theaters.

In addition to Moreno, others featured in the Mariem Pérez Riera-directed doc include George Chakiris, Héctor Elizondo, Gloria Estefan, Tom Fontana, Morgan Freeman, Mitzi Gaynor, Whoopi Goldberg, Norman Lear, Eva Longoria, Justina Machado, Terrence McNally, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Karen Olivo.

The film covers Moreno’s 70-year-plus career rise and struggles, from her beginnings in poverty on a Puerto Rican farm to becoming a rare EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscars, Tony Awards) winner.

She’s the first Latina actress to win an Oscar (for her role as Anita in 1961’s West Side Story). Despite the win, studios continued to offer Moreno lesser roles as stereotypical ethnic minorities, ignoring her proven talent.

“Roadside Attractions, I’m so pleased for your commitment to my story and especially for making it available to a broader audience. Curtain Up!,” Moreno commented.

“Stars like Rita are few and far between, her showbiz story and personal remembrances resonate for a large, diverse audience, and the heights she continues to achieve are a true crowd pleasing uplift after the year we’ve all had,” said Roadside co-presidents Howard Cohen and Eric d’Arbeloff.

“Rita is an incredible inspiration to so many, hers is a success story for all women who feel alone as they struggle to assert themselves with courage and bravery against heavy odds,” offered director Pérez Riera. “We are so thrilled to bring Rita to theaters for audiences to spend time with a woman who, when speaking about herself, speaks to and for a lot of us.”

“There were only a small group of distributors we hoped would take notice at Sundance. Roadside was at the top of that list,” said film’s producer, ACT III’s Brent Miller and EP Norman Lear. “We think we’re in great hands with Howard and Eric at the helm and couldn’t be more excited for the world to know the Rita we now know and love.”

American Masters Pictures and Act III Productions in association with Artemis Rising and Maramar Films are producers.

Rachel Zegler to Star in the “Shazam” Sequel, “Shazam: Fury of the Gods”

Rachel Zegler’s latest project is Gods will…

The 19-year-old Colombian American actress, who will soon star as Maria in Steven Spielberg’s upcoming West Side Story, has joined the cast of Shazam: Fury of the Gods, the sequel to New Line and DC Comics’ 2019 film Shazam! starring Zachary Levi as the kid-at-heart superhero who is bestowed with the powers of six gods.

Rachel Zegler

The sequel will hail from the same filmmaking team behind the first installment, with David F. Sandberg directing from a screenplay by Henry Gayden and Chris Morgan.

It will continue the story of teenage Billy Batson who, upon reciting the magic word “SHAZAM!” is struck by the Living Lightning of the gods and transformed into his adult superhero alter ego, Shazam.

Zegler will star opposite Ansel Elgort and Rita Moreno when West Side Story is released in December.

Ariana DeBose to Star in the Space Thriller “ISS”

Ariana DeBose has landed an out of this world role…

The 30-year-old half-Afro-Puerto Rican actress/singer has been cast in ISS, the space thriller from LD Entertainment and director Gabriela Cowperthwaite.

Ariana DeBose

DeBose joins previously announced stars Chris Messina and Pilou Asbaek, as well as John Gallagher Jr., Costa Ronin, and Masha Mashkova.

Nick Shafir wrote the screenplay, which was featured in the recent 2020 Black List. The plot follows six astronauts living aboard the International Space Station (ISS) and the actions they take after receiving distressing information from Earth that threatens their missions and their lives.

DeBose will play Kira Foster, a promising biological engineer and the newest arrival of six astronauts aboard the ISS.

Production is set to begin this month in Wilmington, NC.,

DeBose was most recently seen in Ryan Murphy’s all-star Netflix musicalThe Prom,

She also earned a Tony Award nomination in 2018 for her portrayal of Donna Summer in Summer: The Donna Summer Musical and was part of the Off Broadway cast of Hamilton.

Up next, she can be seen in the role of Anita for Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story remake.

AFI to Honor Rita Moreno During This Year’s Virtual AFI Fest

Rita Moreno is ready to talk shop as part of a special night…

The 88-year-old Puerto Rican Oscar, Golden Globe, Emmy and Tony Award-winning actress will be honored during this year’s virtual AFI Fest, which will take place from October 15-22.

Rita Moreno

Moreno, who currently stars on PopTV’s One Day at a Time, will be honored alongside Sofia CoppolaKirby Dick and Mira Nair, with each taking par t in an evening of conversation celebrating their careers.

“Artists of this caliber are essential players in our global culture,” said Bob Gazzale, AFI President & CEO. “To honor each of them – and all of them – at AFI FEST will prove a symphony of talent at a time the world needs it most.”

Moreno’s career began with a Broadway debut at 13 years old. Since then she has won all four of the most prestigious awards in show business – an Oscar, a Tony, two Emmys, and a Grammy – as well as a Peabody Award and a Kennedy Center Honor. Moreno has also been recognized with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush and the National Medal of Arts by President Barack Obama.

Moreno received an Honorary Degree from the AFI Conservatory in 2016.

Moreno is starring in Steven Spielberg’s remake of West Side Story, which will debut in theaters in December of 2021. She currently stars on the remake of Norman Lear’s classic sitcom, One Day at a Time. 

David Alvarez to Star in Showtime’s Drama Series “Rust”

David Alvarez is ready for showtime

The 25-year-old Cuban-Canadian actor/dancer is set to star in Showtime’s drama series Rust. 

David Alvarez

Alvarez will star oppositeMaura Tierney, Jeff DanielsBill CampAlex Neustaedterand newcomer Julia Mayorga in the series. 

Based on Philipp Meyer’s debut novel American Rust, the Showtime adaptation is described as a compelling family drama that will explore the tattered American dream through the eyes of complicated and compromised chief of police Del Harris (Daniels) in a Rust Belttown in southwest Pennsylvania. When the woman he truly loves (Tierney) sees her son accused of murder, Harris is forced to decide what he’s willing to do to protect him.

Tierney’s Grace Poe is a woman from a devastated Pennsylvania steel town trying to organize a union among co-workers at her dress factory, while her son Billy (Neustaedter) is accused of murder.

Camp will play Henry English, a disabled former steel worker and widower who has placed the entire burden of his care on his son, Isaac (Alvarez). When Isaac runs away, Henry is forced to call his daughter Lee (Mayorga) back from her new life in New York City and finally reckon with the reality of his wife’s death.

Alvarez’s Isaac English is a recent high school graduate who abandons both his ailing father and his troubled friend to hitchhike cross-country. He’ll have to weigh the value of self-discovery against that of personal loyalty.

Neustaedter’s Billy Poe is a former high school football star who turned down a scholarship to stay in town. When he’s accused of the murder of an ex-cop, he must weigh his personal loyalties with the value of his own life.

Mayorga’s Lee English is a young woman, who upon graduating from Columbia Law School, is pulled back to her hometown as her brother runs away, and her father’s condition deteriorates.

Rust is executive produced by Dan Futterman, who is writing multiple scripts, Michael De Luca, Daniels and Elisa Ellisfor Platform One Media.

Alvarez received a Tony Awardfor his performance in Billy Elliot. A military veteran, he most recently wrapped production playing Bernardo in Steven Spielberg’s remake of West Side Story.

Newcomer Rachel Zegler Lands Maria Role in Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story”

Rachel Zegler is headed to the West Side

The 17-year-old Colombian American actress/singer,New Jersey High School studentand Hollywood newcomer has landed the lead role of Maria in Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story.

Rachel Zegler

Zegler, who beat out more than 30,000 people from around the world, will make her film debut opposite Ansel Elgortas Tony.

Rounding out the principal Shark roles are Broadway veterans Ariana DeBose as Anita and David Alvarezas Bernardo. Theater performer Josh Andrés Rivera has been cast as Chino.

Spielberg and his team were committed to finding the best actors within the Puerto Rican as well as the broader Latinxcommunity. The team has been conducting research and having conversations with Hispanic heritage and advocacy groups. In December 2018, Spielberg and Tony Kushner, who is adapting West Side Story, sat with professors and students at the University of Puerto Rico(Universidad de Puerto Rico – Río Piedras) to learn more about performing arts on the island.  The production team maintains a dialogue with the University and Puerto Rican filmmakers there.

The new castmembers join Rita Moreno, who won an Oscarfor her portrayal of Anita in the 1961 movie, who will play Valentina, a reconceived and expanded version of the character of Doc, the owner of the corner store in which Tony works. Moreno also serves as executive producer. 

“When we began this process a year ago, we announced that we would cast the roles of Maria, Anita, Bernardo, Chino and the Sharks with Latina and Latino actors. I’m so happy that we’ve assembled a cast that reflects the astonishing depth of talent in America’s multifaceted Hispanic community,” said Spielberg. “I am in awe of the sheer force of the talent of these young performers, and I believe they’ll bring a new and electrifying energy to a magnificent musical that’s more relevant than ever.”

“I simply cannot wait to get on set to work with this group of young actors,” said Moreno. “What an ensemble, and I look forward to passing the baton to this next generation of Sharks!”

Zegler saw the notice on Twitterback in January 2018 for Latinx actors and submitted a video of herself singing “Tonight” and “Me Siento Hermosa” (“I Feel Pretty”).

“I am so thrilled to be playing the iconic role of Maria alongside this amazing cast,” said Zegler. “West Side Story was the first musical I encountered with a Latina lead character. As a Colombian-American, I am humbled by the opportunity to play a role that means so much to the Hispanic community.”

DeBose, who was nominated for a Tony Award in 2018 for her portrayal of Donna Summerin Summer: The Donna Summer Musical, will play Anita, the role made famous on film by Moreno. DeBose’s other Broadway credits include the original cast of HamiltonA Bronx Tale: The MusicalPippinMotown: The Musical and Bring It On: The Musical. Her screen debut came in 2009 as a competitor on So You Think You Can Dance.

“I’m honored to follow in the footsteps of the remarkable women who have played Anita – including Chita Rivera and, of course, the incomparable Rita Moreno,” said DeBose. “I relate so strongly to Anita – a strong Puerto Rican woman who came to New York in search of opportunity – and I feel so fortunate for the chance to work with this amazing cast and creative team.”

Alvarez, who won a Tony in 2009 for originating the title role in Billy Elliot: The Musical, will play Bernardo, Maria’s brother and the leader of the Sharks. Following his appearance in Billy Elliot, Alvarez served in the U.S. Army’s 25th Infantry Division, before returning to Broadway in 2014 to join the company of On the Town.

“My parents emigrated from Cuba with no connections, knowing no English, driven only by the hope of a better life. I know how challenging the decision was for them, and I see a lot of that internal conflict in Bernardo,” said Alvarez. “I have dreamt of playing this part since I first saw the original film, and I am so grateful for the chance to bring my own perspective and journey to this role – as an artist, a Veteran and a Latino – and to work with this incredible cast to breathe new life into these characters’ experiences.”

Rivera – an actor, singer and dancer who most recently appeared in the first national tour of Hamilton – will play the role of Chino.

West Side Story is the dream for any performer, and to tackle it with this creative team is truly a once-in-a-lifetime chance,” said Rivera. “I feel very fortunate to be able to portray the Nuyorican experience alongside these amazingly talented actors. I’m confident Puerto Ricans on and off the island will see ourselves reflected in this project.”

West Side Story will be produced and directed by Spielberg from a script by Oscar-nominated screenwriter and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner. The film will be adapted for the screen from the original 1957 Broadway musical, which was written by Arthur Laurentswith music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and concept, direction and choreography by Jerome Robbins. Also leading the production are Tony Award-winning producer Kevin McCollumand Academy Award-nominated producer Kristie Macosko Krieger.

West Side Story will be released by Twentieth Century Fox. Filming is slated to start in the summer of 2019.

Additional casting announcements will be made in the coming weeks, specifically in regards to The Sharksand The Jets.

Rivera to Receive “Woman of Valor Award” from Victory Dance Project

It’s a special Victory for Chita Rivera

The 84-year-old half-Puerto Rican actress, dancer and singer will be honored by the New York-based Victory Dance Project at its third anniversary celebration.

Chita Rivera

Rivera, a Broadway legend, will be presented with the company’s Woman of Valor Award at the celebration at the Manhattan Movement & Arts Center on June 15.

The award honors “a woman whose artistic excellence, advocacy, and legacy represents the highest level of integrity and artistic vision.”

The event, themed From This Movement On, will also include a world premiere piece choreographed by the company’s artistic director Amy Jordan, as well as pieces from the company’s repertoire.

Jordan and Rivera share a similar experience. Victory Dance Project was founded in 2014 by Jordan after she survived a bus accident that nearly claimed her life. She says she resolved that if she survived, she would do a “victory dance” to celebrate, and launched VDP Project with the mission to “Make the Impossible Possible with the Power of Movement.”

Rivera survived a 1986 Manhattan car accident that shattered her left leg. After therapy, she returned to the stage, winning the 1993 Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical for her performance in Kiss of the Spider-Woman. She had previously won a Tony for her performance in The Rink.

Her additional credits include the original Broadway productions of Guys and Dolls, West Side Story, Bye Bye Birdie, Can-Can, Chicago, Merlin, The Visit and her autobiographical musical, Chita Rivera: The Dancer’s Life.

“We are thrilled to be honoring the amazing Chita Rivera with Victory Dance Project’s Woman of Valor Award. I can’t think of a more apt recipient—Her incredible talent, spirit and strength inspire us on so many levels—she is truly a woman of valor,” said Jordan in an interview with Playbill.

Cervantes to Star in the Chicago Production of “Hamilton”

Miguel Cervantes is helping bring Broadway’s hottest musical to the Windy City.

The Latino actor has landed the lead role of Alexander Hamilton for the upcoming Chicago production of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony Award-winning musical Hamilton.

Miguel Cervantes

Cervantes previously appeared on Broadway in If/ThenAmerican Idiot and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.

Karen Olivo, a Tony winner for the 2009 Broadway revival of West Side Story and an original castmember of Miranda’s breakout musical, In the Heights, will play Anjelica Schuyler. The role of King George III will be played by stage veteran Alexander Gemignani, who starred as Jean Valjean in the 2009 revival of Les Miserables and has also appeared on Broadway in Violet, AssassinsSunday in the Park with George and Sweeney Todd.

The Chicago staging of Hamilton will feature former American Idol contestant Ari Asfar as Eliza Schuyler Hamilton, Chris Lee as Lafayette and Jefferson, Joseph Morales as Cervantes’ alternate, Jose Ramos as John Laurens and Phillip Hamilton, Wallace Smith as Hercules Mulligan and James Madison, and Samantha Marie Ware as Peggy Schuyler and Maria Reynolds. Both Lee and Morales are alumni of the In the Heights national tour.

Casting for the joint lead role of Aaron Burr in Chicago has not yet been announced.

Performances of Hamilton begin Sept. 27 at Chicago’s PrivateBank Theatre, marking the first production of the show beyond New York.

A separate touring production kicks off next March in San Francisco, while a London production will also begin in 2017.

Hamilton has been the biggest smash to hit Broadway in decades, winning 11 Tony Awards and selling out for months in advance. The show’s cumulative box office since it began performances at the Richard Rodgers Theatre on July 13 last year has hit $88 million.