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Inside West Side Story’s Star-Studded Opening Night

Inside West Side Story’s Star-Studded Opening Night

When West Side Story opened on Broadway in 1957, it made history (and headlines) by digging its heels into the gritty asphalt of New York’s mean streets. Confronting teenage gang violence and racial prejudice—topics that dominated the daily news but remained foreign to the world of musical theater—the production subverted the traditional saccharine musical story line with choreographed back-alley turf brawls and switchblade ballets.

Half a century, one Oscar-winning Hollywood adaptation, two New York revivals, plus another in London, and countless high school productions later, Ivo van Hove is taking a turn with a radical restaging of the cult classic. When it opened on Thursday at the Broadway Theatre, Alec and Hilaria Baldwin, Diane von Furstenberg, Iman, Ethan Hawke, Spike Lee, Tom Sturridge, John Cameron Mitchell, and Vanessa Hudgens were among the many boldface names who came out to see how the Belgian “bad boy” director of experimental theater had flipped the script. Spoiler alert: West Side Story hasn’t caused this much of a stir since it debuted.

It’s not the 1950s anymore—instead, it fast-forwards to the present. Gen Z–era Jets and Sharks are virtually unrecognizable with their mix of streetwear, piercings, and head-to-toe tattoos. Those familiar finger snaps and scissor kicks have been replaced with iPhones and fresh dance moves, courtesy of choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker. And slashes to the book and score (notably, “I Feel Pretty”) feel insignificant compared to the video screen that projects much of the live-action, filmed social media–style, onstage.

Fittingly, several celebrity guests took sartorial cues from the musical and reimagined them for the red carpet of today. Always one to deliver showstopping style, Broadway producer extraordinaire Jordan Roth turned out in a Norma Kamali houndstooth number, replete with a trumpet hem inspired by the famously flouncy frock that Anita wears during the Mambo dance sequence. “If this production were a look, it would be this,” Roth said, showing off the ruffled details. “It’s a little nod to the original costuming.” Not even the towering Rick Owens boots he paired it with could stop him from cutting a rug at the after-party at IAC.

The stars of the show also demonstrated a flair for opening-night fashion. Shereen Pimentel, the 21-year-old starlet who plays Maria, actually had a hand in designing the gown that she originally planned to wear to the soirée, before a shipping-related snag meant it wouldn’t arrive in time. “The good thing is, I was able to find something else at the last-minute that I loved equally,” Pimentel said. Indeed, she made quite the entrance in a glittering gown with a slit cut up to there. Even in ivory, the moment still recalled the white dress that Maria wears to the dance at the gym. “I wanted to keep the essence of the character,” she said. “Everyone [keeps] telling me I look like a Disney princess, and I truly feel like one.”

Isaac Powell, who plays Maria’s beloved Tony, also looked rather dapper in Celine (his latest fashion flex since he appeared in a recent Helmut Lang ad). “Celine was first on my wish list,” Powell said, revealing he’d been a fan of the brand ever since creative director Hedi Slimane started showing menswear. “I knew I wanted to wear something classic and timeless,” he added. Paired with a shirt spliced with sheer panels, the ensemble was just the sort of old-meets-new mash-up that West Side Story is delivering each night onstage.