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Tuesday 21 August 2018

Leonard Bernstein’s daughter reflects on West Side Story Prom row

The production drew complaints of ‘whitewashing’.

Leonard Bernstein (PA)
Leonard Bernstein (PA)

By Julia Hunt, Press Association Entertainment Correspondent

Composer Leonard Bernstein’s daughter has weighed in on the “whitewashing” row surrounding the BBC Proms concert performance of West Side Story, saying her father may have thought people were “overcompensating with their political correctness to the point where it could become ridiculous”.

The production drew complaints earlier this year over the casting of Broadway star Sierra Boggess as Maria, who is Puerto Rican.

Boggess quit the role after the backlash in the US and BBC Proms announced that Mikaela Bennett would lead the cast at the Royal Albert Hall.

Bernstein’s daughter Jamie told Radio Times magazine: “I think he’d have appreciated the fact that the whole industry, musical theatre and the performing arts in general, is becoming so much more mindful of issues having to do with diversity, and race and tolerance.

“In this particular instance he’d have respected the cast member who withdrew for the reasons she withdrew, but at the same time I wonder whether he would feel that everybody was overcompensating with their political correctness to the point where it could become ridiculous.

“But it is very hard to parse these issues.”

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

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

This week’s Radio Times is out on August 7.

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