Lea Michele lost West Side Story, got Glee, but now gets Maria anyway

OK, I was foolish to rhapsodize about the fun prospect of Glee’s Season 3 school musical being The Sound of Music. It would have to have been campy, for one thing, to offset the sweet innocence — and even then they might have been booed off the stage by McKinley’s surly students. But I’m stoked that the chosen show is a more modern winner with not only a close kinship to The Sound of Music, in a way, but to its inevitable star, Rachel.

We’re talking West Side Story, for which two songs will appear in Tuesday’s I Am Unicorn Glee episode: Something’s Coming and Somewhere, as audition pieces.

Comparisons? First, West Side Story and The Sound of Music both hail from the same era. West Side Story debuted on Broadway in 1957. The Sound of Music opened in 1959. West Side Story became a movie in 1961. The Sound of Music premiered on screen in 1965.

Next, both film versions had the same director, Robert Wise (though he shared credit with Jerome Robbins for West Side Story). And both movies won many Oscars (10 for West Side Story, five for The Sound of Music), including Best Picture.

Too, both feature as their female lead a woman with the same name: Maria.

Beyond that, they’re very different, of course. West Side Story is a modernized, artful yet edgy and almost ballet-like re-imagining of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, only with feuding 1950s NYC street gangs to tear its lovers apart rather than feuding Italian families in the 16th Century. The Sound of Music is a cheerful family saga set in lovely Austria on the eve of Word War II.

And here’s where the Glee connection gets interesting.

As you may know, creator Ryan Murphy writes characters connected to the actors who play them. There’s a lot in the ambitious Rachel that springs from the ambitious Lea Michele, for instance.

Now consider this: Just before Michele was cast in Glee, she auditioned to play Maria in a Broadway revival of West Side Story — and didn’t get it. Michele has said she was devastated — couldn’t get out of bed for days, she was so depressed. But friend Idina Menzel told her to get out there and keep trying — that she might find something even better.

I believe she did. And now she gets to have her Glee cake and eat icing from West Wide Story too.

Rachel will play Maria in Glee’s version of the show. You can count on it. In fact, you can see and hear her auditioning for the part by singing the hauntingly beautiful Somewhere in clips online now. And guess who’s also in the scene for a fantasy duet? Menzel, as Rachel’s mother, Shelby Corcoran. And don’t forget Rachel declared her perfection for the role back in Season One, when Will defiantly let Tina sing Tonight instead.

So all things come around, and Michele is finally getting to play Maria in West Wide Story — though in a way on a far bigger stage (even with a ratings slip to just under 9 million viewers).

You see? Anything can happen in America, where something’s coming, and I feel it’s gonna be Michele — or Rachel — at last getting her wish to live her dream.

Then again, this just in: Previews for Episode 3 suggest Mercedes could get the Maria role instead. But I have two other theories: Rachel and Mercedes could share the role in alternating performances, or Tina could get it. Remember, Tina sang Tonight in Season 1. But regardless, Rachel and Lea are getting to sing songs from a role they love, and that’s enough.

And now this just in: With both offered the part on alternating weeks, Mercedes storms off and Rachel alone gets the role. Sad for Mercedes, but happy for Rachel. She just got a part named Maria.

Now this just in: Rachel and Blaine’s duet for Tonight, with full orchestrations, is among the most fully realized Glee numbers ever. Lea sings so beautifully, with emotion, precision and delicacy, thus demonstrating why Rachel was, in fact, the best choice for Maria. (Mercedes could not do this song justice.) So there.

(If you enjoyed this post, please follow my Glee-laden tweets via @BruceWestbrook — and see what Baby Brucie looks like!)

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5 Responses to “Lea Michele lost West Side Story, got Glee, but now gets Maria anyway”

  1. Frank Says:

    I am sorry, but Glee could never do West Side Story justice.

  2. Philip Klipper Says:

    Lea is Maria….How she could have not been chosen is unbelievable. And the producer needs a hearing aid. Actually all the players in the West Side Stury Episode were fabulous. I would love to see the Glee cast in West side story. They are all very talented. I don’t know if anyone has realized it yet but Lea is an incredible star. There are only a few people out there that can do what she does. When Lea sings she does it with heart and you know she loves what she is doing. I am a pretty big tough guy and she brings me to tears every time.

  3. parker Says:

    Well, I’m another ‘big tough guy’ who cries at dog food commercials: “Someone, please feed the dog!”
    LM is a big star, Philip . . . loved all over the world for her talent. It’s good that there’s one more that recognizes this. When the Glee series is over (or her participation on the show is over), she will go on to be a New York Broiadway staple. Her future is bright!

  4. farsider Says:

    Thanks, Philip and Parker. Being touched by the beauty of Lea Michele’s singing is to be human in the best sense. Glad you feel the same.

  5. Zoia Says:

    Lea is a very good singer…..but I could never see her as Maria. Well, really I couldn’t see Rachel as Maria, she’s too diva, and Maria isn’t a diva. Especially after you see the girl they did choose to play Maria in the revival, a then 21-year old opera trained singer from Argentina. And don’t forget, the director for the revival -who I can only assume was at the auditions – was 91 year old Arthur Laurents, eg the guy who wrote the book/script of the original show back in the 50s who helped create the show and helped make it what it is today. And even though I still love Lea/Rachel, I think it’s. .ittle unfair that she’s had more fame than Josefina. I just really didn’t think that either Rachel or Mercedes could’ve pulled off Maria, even though I love them both.

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