Lindsay Mendez to Star in Off-Broadway Revival of “Merrily We Roll Along”

Lindsay Mendez is rolling along

The 39-year-old half-Mexican American actress, singer and Broadway star has been cast in the highly anticipated off-Broadway revival of Merrily We Roll Along.

Mendez will play Mary and Jonathan Groff will play Franklin in the project, which will begin previews at New York Theatre Workshop on November 21 ahead of an official opening night on December 12.

The run is scheduled through January 8.

With a score by Stephen Sondheim and book by George FurthMerrily We Roll Along is based on a play by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart, and features classic songs like “Old Friends,” “Not a Day Goes By,” and “Our Time.”

It tells the story of a trio of creative friends making their way in New York, and is famously told in reverse chronology.

Mendez won the “triple crown” (Tony, Drama Desk, and Outer Critics Circle Awards) for her performance in the 2018 Broadway revival of Carousel.

Mendez and Groff join the previously announced Daniel Radcliffe, who stars as Charley.

Presented in a special arrangement with Sonia Friedman Productions, the Menier Chocolate Factory (Artistic Director David Babani), and Patrick CatulloMerrily We Roll Along will be directed by Maria Friedman and choreographed by Tim Jackson.

The creative team for Merrily We Roll Along will include Catherine Jayes as music supervisor and Alvin Hough, Jr. as music director, with scenic & costume design by Soutra Gilmour, lighting design by Amith Chandrashaker, and sound design by Kai Harada.

Dave Anzuelo will serve as fight & intimacy director, with Jhanaë K-C Bonnick as stage manager.

Tickets will go on sale to the general public on Wednesday, September 21, at noon ET.

Rachel Zegler to Perform at This Year’s Grammy Awards

Rachel Zegler will be getting her Grammy moment…

The Recording Academy has announced more performers for the 64th Grammy Awards program, with the 20-year-old half-Colombian American actress/singer among those set to take the stage.

Rachel Zegler,Zegler, who will be a presenter at this weekend’s Academy Awards show, and Ben Platt will perform during a special In Memoriam segment, featuring songs of Stephen Sondheim.

In addition to Zegler and Platt, recently confirmed performers include Jon Batiste, Foo Fighters, H.E.R, Nas and Chris Stapleton. Additionally, Grammy winner Cynthia Erivo and current nominee Leslie Odom Jr. will perform.

The join previously announced Olivia Rodrigo, Brothers OsborneBTS, Brandi CarlileBillie Eilish and Lil Nas X with Jack Harlow. Additionally, Grammy winner Cynthia Erivo, current nominees Leslie Odom Jr.

Hosted by Trevor Noah live from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, the 64th Annual Grammy Awards will be broadcast Sunday, April 3 on CBS at 8:00 pm ET/ 5:00 pm PT and will be available to stream live and on demand on Paramount+.

 

Broadway Legend Chita Rivera to Release Memoir in Early 2023 via HarperOne

Chita Rivera is ready to share her story…

The 89-year-old half-Puerto Rican Tony Award-winning actress, singer, dancer and Broadway legend will be recapping her illustrious career in a memoir for HarperOne, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

Chita RiveraThe book, with a publication release date set for early 2023 and title to be determined, will also be published simultaneously by Harper Español.

Rivera will be writing the book with Emmy-winning TV commentator and arts journalist Patrick Pacheco.

Rivera is one of the most nominated actors in Tony Awards history, garnering 10 bids during her long career. Her credits include West Side StoryBye Bye Birdie, Chicago and Kiss of the Spider Woman.

She plans to detail her associations with Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim, Arthur Laurents, Jerome Robbins, Bob Fosse, Hal Prince, Gower Champion, John Kander, Fred Ebb, Jerry Herman, and other titans of the Broadway world.

She will also share her stories about Gwen Verdon, Elaine Stritch, Dick Van Dyke, Liza Minnelli, and Sammy Davis Jr., among others.

“I’ve long considered writing my memoirs, but I’ve never been one to look back…until now,” Rivera said in a statement. “Now it feels right, and with Patrick Pacheco, I couldn’t be more pleased to pass on my experience to a new generation. I hope my words and thoughts about my life and career resonate and readers just might discover some things about me they never knew.”

Lisa Sharkey, SVP director of creative development, HarperCollins Publishers, acquired the North American rights for English and World for Spanish, first serial, and audio from Mel Berger at WME.

The book will have Rakesh Satyal as executive editor, HarperOne Publishing Group, and will be edited with HarperEspañol editor Ariana Rosado-Fernández.

“West Side Story” Star Rachel Zegler Earns First-Ever Major Film Award from National Board of Review

Rachel Zegler is celebrating a major first…

The 20-year-old half-Colombian American actress/singer has received the first-ever major film award from the National Board of Review.

West Side Story, Rachel Zegler Zegler, a Hollywood newcomer, was named Best Actress for her leading role as Maria in Steven Spielberg‘s critically lauded big-screen update of the Stephen Sondheim classic West Side Story.

Established in 1909 by theater owners fighting the revoking of exhibition licenses by New York City officials, the NBR is now comprised of film enthusiasts, academics, and other movie professionals working inside the industry. In recent years, it has evolved into a vital stepping stone (and visibility booster) on the path to potential Oscar glory for would-be contenders.

Here’s the full list of the 2021 National Board of Review winners below.

Best Film: Licorice Pizza
Best Director: Paul Thomas Anderson — Licorice Pizza
Best Actor: Will Smith — King Richard
Best Actress: Rachel Zegler — West Side Story
Best Supporting Actor: Ciarán Hinds — Belfast
Best Supporting Actress: Aunjanue Ellis — King Richard
Best Original Screenplay: Asghar Farhadi — A Hero
Best Adapted Screenplay: Joel Coen — The Tragedy of Macbeth
Breakthrough Performance: Alana Haim & Cooper Hoffman — Licorice Pizza
Best Directorial Debut: Michael Sarnoski — Pig
Best Animated Feature: Encanto
Best Foreign Language Film: A Hero
Best Documentary: Summer of Soul
Best Ensemble: The Harder They Fall
Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography: Bruno Delbonnel — The Tragedy of Macbeth
NBR Freedom of Expression Award: Flee
Top Films (in alphabetical order)
Belfast
Don’t Look Up
Dune
King Richard
The Last Duel
Nightmare Alley
Red Rocket
The Tragedy of Macbeth
West Side Story

Top 5 Foreign Language Films (in alphabetical order)
Benedetta
Lamb
Lingui, The Sacred Bonds
Titane
The Worst Person in the World

Top 5 Documentaries (in alphabetical order)
Ascension
Attica
Flee
The Rescue
Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain

Top 10 Independent Films (in alphabetical order)
The Card Counter
C’mon C’mon
CODA
The Green Knight
Holler
Jockey
Old Henry
Pig
Shiva Baby
The Souvenir Part II

Lin-Manuel Miranda to Take Part in Stephen Sondheim Virtual Birthday Concert

Lin-Manuel Miranda is celebrating a living musical theater legend.

The 40-year-old Puerto Rican composer, lyricist, singer, actor, producer and playwright, widely known for creating and starring in the Tony Award-winning Broadway musicals In the Heights and Hamilton, has signed on to appear on Sunday’s Stephen Sondheim virtual birthday concert.

Lin-Manuel Miranda

Miranda, who starred in Mary Poppins Returns, joins a roster of new additions that includes Jake GyllenhaalLinda LavinLaura BenantiNeil Patrick Harrisand Ben Plattfor the all-star benefit for Artists Striving To End Poverty.

Previously announced stars participating in the concert include Annaleigh AshfordMelissa ErricoBeanie FeldsteinJosh GrobanJudy KuhnRandy Rainbow and Lea Solanga

Special appearances will be made by Victor GarberJoanna GleasonNathan Lane and Steven Spielberg.

They’ll all join the previously announced Meryl StreepBernadette PetersPatti LuPone and Audra McDonald, among many others, in the special virtual concert to celebrate Sondheim’s 90th birthday.

Take Me To The World: A Sondheim 90th Birthday Celebration, hosted by Raúl Esparza, is set for this Sunday, April 26, the 50th anniversary of the opening night of Sondheim’s groundbreaking musical Company.

The concert kicks off at 8:00 pm ET, and will be available for free at Broadway.comand the Broadway.com YouTubechannel.

Other artists performing songs from the Sondheim catalog will include Mandy Patinkin, Christine BaranskiDonna MurphyKristin ChenowethSutton FosterBrian Stokes MitchellKelli O’HaraAaron TveitMaria Friedman, Iain ArmitageKatrina LenkMichael CerverisBrandon UranowitzStephen SchwartzElizabeth StanleyChip Zien, Alexander Gemignani and, from the cast of Pacific Overtures at Classic Stage CompanyAnn HaradaAustin KuKelvin Moon Loh and Thom Sesma.

Esparza starred as Bobby in the 2006 Tony Award-winning revival of Companyand in the Kennedy Center Sondheim Celebration productions of Sunday in the Park with George and Merrily We Roll Along in 2002, as well as the City Center Encores! production of Anyone Can Whistle and in last year’s Road Show.

“The world is in a hard place,” Esparza said in a statement, “and we are all searching for something great. Well, Stephen Sondheim is greatness personified.”

Mary-Mitchell Campbell will be the music director, with Paul Wontorek serving as director.

The online event will act as a fundraiser for ASTEP (Artists Striving to End Poverty), the organization conceived by Campbell and Juilliard students to transform the lives of youth through art.

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.

Allende Among This Year’s Presidential Medal of Freedom Honorees

Isabel Allende
 is headed to the White House

The 72-year-old Chilean writer is among the 19 people chosen by President Barack Obama today to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.

Isabel Allende

Allende, best known for her novels La casa de los espíritus and La ciudad de las bestias, has written 21 books that have sold 65 million copies in 35 languages.

She’s been recognized with numerous awards internationally, including the prestigious National Literary Award in Chile, her country of origin.

Allende’s novels are often based upon her personal experience and pay homage to the lives of women, while weaving together elements of myth and realism.

Allende, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, was granted American citizenship in 1993, having lived in California with her American husband since 1989.

But Allende isn’t the only Hispanic person to receive the honor this year…

The late Edward Roybal will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom posthumously.

He was the first Mexican-American to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from California in nearly a century. In 1976, he founded the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, creating a national forum for Latino issues and opening doors for a new generation of Latino leaders.

Other honorees this year include Meryl Streep, Tom Brokaw, Stephen Sondheim, Marlo Thomas, Stevie Wonder and choreographer Alvin Ailey.

The awards will be bestowed at the White House on November 24.