In West Side Story, Maria is of Puerto Rican descent.In the 1961 film adaptation she was played by American actress Natalie Wood.. Spielberg told Variety: “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.”. Considered one of the greatest musicals of all time, West Side Story makes its triumphant Signature debut. In the late 1950s two rival gangs struggle for control of their West Side New York City neighborhood. “West Side Story was the first musical I encountered with a Latina lead character. West Side Story is back, with Steven Spielberg bringing the hit Broadway musical to life on screen for the first time since the 1961 classic starring Natalie Wood and Richard Beymer. West Side Story "America" key feature tonality? Vomastek noted of the choreography, “The one key difference I notice is the snapping—it’s gone.” Spanish guitar and celesta provide undulating lines in parallel thirds West Side Story "America" key feature instrument key features? The new “West Side Story” is set in the present day. Amidst the chaos, star-crossed lovers find themselves wrenched between their worlds.