New Maria cast in West Side Story following 'whitewashing' backlash
A new Maria has been cast in the BBC proms production of West Side Story following complaints over “whitewashing”.
Mikaela Bennett will take on the role of the famous Puerto Rican character after the show's previous star, Sierra Boggess, withdrew from the role over the criticism.
Boggess wrote on Facebook at the time: "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.
"That would be a huge mistake."
The character of Maria was made famous by Natalie Wood, an American actress of Russian descent, in the 1961 film version.
Boggess pulled out of the BBC production in April after several Twitter users voiced their concerns over her casting.
One user wrote: "Sierra Boggess should not play Maria in West Side Story. Natalie Wood shouldn't have played her either. Maria is a Puerto Rican character."
"Disappointed, but not at all surprised that we have yet again another instance of whitewashing characters in theatre."
Canadian-born Bennett has previously performed excerpts from West Side Story with the New York Philharmonic for their Young Peoples Concert series.
She will now take on the role of Maria organised to mark the centenary of composer Leonard Bernstein's birth, 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."
She has been cast on her merit and suitability for the role
BBC Proms spokesperson
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.
West Side Story will be performed at the Royal Albert Hall on 11 August and broadcast live on BBC Radio 3.
The new cast also includes Ross Lekites, who will play Tony, and Eden Espinosa, best known for starring in Wicked, who will play Anita.
Leo Roberts, from the West End production Evita, will play Riff and Gian Marco Schiaretti joins the cast as Bernardo.
The news comes amid increasing pressure for the casting of appropriate actors in roles on stage and screen.
British actor Ed Skrein turned down a role in the comic-book movie Hellboy after discovering the character was of Asian heritage. Scarlett Johansson was recently cast as a trans character in Rub & Tug, prompting another backlash. After initially defending the casting, she decided to step down.