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Debut of the Month: Meet the 33 Broadway Newbies of WEST SIDE STORY!

It's a very special edition, featuring not 1, but 33 Broadway debuts!

Just last month, history was made at the Broadway Theater when the curtain went up on Ivo van Hove's revolutionary revival of West Side Story. The production features a whopping 33 Broadway debuts- young performers hailing everywhere from Cuba to California, and from Mexico to Massachusetts.

The Broadway newbies included: Marissa Brown, Elijah Carter, Adolfo Mena Cejas, Daniel Ching, Audrey Collette, Marc Crousillat, Stephanie Crousillat, Roman Cruz, Alexa De Barr, Israel Del Rosario, Jordan Dobson, Tyler Eisenreich, Armando Eleazar, Marlon Feliz, Satori Folkes-Stone, Zuri Noelle Ford, Ui-Seng François, Yesy Garcia, Jennifer Gruener, Matthew Johnson, Dharon E. Jones, Jarred Manista, Michaela Marfori, Ilda Mason, Michelle Mercedes, Paul Morland, Mia Pinero, Gus Reed, Michael Seltzer, Sheldon True, Madison Vomastek, Bridget Whitman, and Kevin Zambrano.

We're getting to know each and every one of them in a very special edition of BroadwayWorld's Debut of the Month series, featuring photography by Bruce Glikas. Below, the cast tells us what the big moment means to them!


Debut of the Month: Meet the 33 Broadway Newbies of WEST SIDE STORY!

"If someone would have told me that I would be making my Broadway debut in the newest revival of West Side Story, I would have told them 'I hope you're right.' I feel truly blessed and super grateful for this once in a lifetime opportunity to be bringing a new life to such a classic and as you said, beloved show. This came out of the blue but I was preparing myself for a moment like this and I can only be thankful that it came along when it did." -Dharon E. Jones (Riff)


Debut of the Month: Meet the 33 Broadway Newbies of WEST SIDE STORY!

"I never even expected to make my way to Broadway! Yes, it's always been a childhood dream, but musical theater didn't quite seem the route my career was headed. But because this production has reimagined a classic, as well as, reinvented what Broadway could be, a new path was created, and here I am telling the most iconic story of the misunderstood." -Stephanie Crousillat (Shark Girl)


Debut of the Month: Meet the 33 Broadway Newbies of WEST SIDE STORY!

"[My younger self] would have never believed it. My advice would be to stay committed in being the last man standing and not give up on the dream of booking a big time gig." -Sheldon True (Shark)


Debut of the Month: Meet the 33 Broadway Newbies of WEST SIDE STORY!

"It feels really exciting to debut on Broadway in West Side Story! My mom used to play the movie for us when we were kids and it's been a favorite of mine ever since. I'm grateful to be surrounded by talented peers who feel excited and passionate about the work they are doing." -Marissa Brown (Francisca)


Debut of the Month: Meet the 33 Broadway Newbies of WEST SIDE STORY!

"Younger me would freak out. He knew he wanted so many of the things that in this year I can say I've already accomplished. It feels surreal to say those words. And I think younger me wouldn't hesitate to say I told you it would happen. I would tell him to keep those big dreams and work hard work smart. Success will come." -Elijah Carter (Action)


Debut of the Month: Meet the 33 Broadway Newbies of WEST SIDE STORY!

"The best part of my WSS experience so far has been to work with such an amazing team. I'm mesmerized by the talent, discipline and intelligence of the people in the show. My younger self would think 'Broadway? Isn't it in New York City? Am I going to go to New York in the future?!?!'" -Adolfo Mena Cejas (Mouthpiece)


Debut of the Month: Meet the 33 Broadway Newbies of WEST SIDE STORY!

"I feel very lucky to be part of such a bold and innovative revival. My younger self wouldn't believe it. I would tell my younger self that life is, more often times than not, about playing the long game, and that success is simply the culmination of all the people you were so fortunate to have come across in life; there's no such thing as appreciating people too much." -Daniel Ching (Jet)


"Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I'd be making my Broadway debut in a show that is both classically iconic and groundbreakingly innovative. The story will always be relevant, and as a performer and filmmaker, the way this show integrates new media and live performance is so exciting for me. I don't think my younger self would believe it if I told her I was on Broadway! The advice I'd give her would be: Keep pursuing passionately. Nothing will pan out in the way that you expect. Don't be afraid to be imperfect. (As it turns out, the simplest, most clichéd advice is the best, if you really listen to it.)" -Audrey Collette (Swing)


Debut of the Month: Meet the 33 Broadway Newbies of WEST SIDE STORY!

"Coming from the concert dance world, dancing on Broadway was hard to imagine. It seemed like something so out of reach, especially dancing in West Side Story. But when word rolled around that Anne Teresa was going to be involved, I knew I had to be a part. I grew up obsessing over musicals like Movin' Out and In the Heights, so making my Broadway debut with such special choreography and with this story that has always spoken to my Hispanic family is many dreams wrapped into one." -Marc Crousillat (Shark)


Debut of the Month: Meet the 33 Broadway Newbies of WEST SIDE STORY!

"The journey from where I came from to who I am today and where I find myself to be now has not been an easy one - it's demanded sheer grit, self belief, determination, discipline, perseverance, and an endless drive to continue to grow, in order to become a higher and better expression of myself. Nothing worthwhile has ever come easy to me so despite that my Broadway debut may have taken a little longer than expected, the wait has certainly been worth it! I would tell myself to continue growing, developing, and doing your due diligence because the day will come when you'll reap all that which you've sown! Trust the process and never give up on yourself - persevere in conquering your doubts, fears, & deepest insecurities in order to manifest the dream. Patience is definitely a virtue so forever believe." -Roman Cruz (Shark)


Debut of the Month: Meet the 33 Broadway Newbies of WEST SIDE STORY!

"I've always had such a special connection with West Side Story. I will never forget the day I first got cast in the international tour of the original version. It was my first major musical and ever since the show has kind of followed me, so it's not extremely surprising that I'm in WSS again. But, this new innovative spin on the show is SO epic and when auditioning I really didn't know if I could rise to the challenge. I got the call, I cried, I felt so accomplished and I couldn't be more excited to be a part of it!" -Alexa De Barr (Jet Girl)


Debut of the Month: Meet the 33 Broadway Newbies of WEST SIDE STORY!

"I never imagined I'd be able to perform something so special let alone on Broadway in the Broadway Theatre. The feeling of performing on stage for the first time was so mind blowing to me that when the show ended I almost forgot to bow." -Israel Del Rosario (Shark)


Debut of the Month: Meet the 33 Broadway Newbies of WEST SIDE STORY!

"I've been dreaming of being on Broadway for so long but I never actually imagined what show it would be and when in my life it would happen. Having West Side Story as my debut has been a thrill from the very start and still is! If my younger self knew I'd be making my Broadway debut in 2020 I wouldn't have believed it. I'd just tell my younger self breathe deeper and trust my intuition especially when it comes to creating art." -Jordan Dobson (Tony Understudy)


Debut of the Month: Meet the 33 Broadway Newbies of WEST SIDE STORY!

"Performing on a Broadway stage for the first time felt more enormous than anything I have ever been a part of. More enormous in pressure and exposure, but also in physical size. It was difficult to stop shaking when we first walked out at the top of the show." -Tyler Eisenreich (Jet/Tony Understudy)


Debut of the Month: Meet the 33 Broadway Newbies of WEST SIDE STORY!

"It was a rush of excitement and adrenaline definitely. I was so thankful to be in a place I had dreamed of for years. I love our company. Everyone is so supportive and loving of each other that it makes it an enjoyable experience. Getting to be a part of the creation of this show's new skin has been a wild and amazing experience." -Armando Eleazar (Shark Swing)


Debut of the Month: Meet the 33 Broadway Newbies of WEST SIDE STORY!

"I never at all expected to be making my debut in such an iconic classic musical, but I honestly feel that I couldn't imagine a more perfect vehicle for my debut! As an artist I feel so aligned with this very special production of West Side Story. I'm really just so grateful and happy to be here, exactly as I am in this moment of my career, with this amazing team of artists. My advice to my younger self would be to trust myself. I was always very dedicated and committed to growing, but I didn't always believe I was "good enough", whatever that means. My advice would be to TRUST that I am, trust my passion & gift, and Just. Keep. Going." -Marlon Feliz (Shark Girl)


Debut of the Month: Meet the 33 Broadway Newbies of WEST SIDE STORY!

"Our first preview was the calmest I've ever been on stage and I was shocked. I was focused on choreographic changes, being in the correct spacing, staying in character so the audience just sort of melted away. I feel like our challenging rehearsal process numbed me from being concerned with anything else but getting the task at hand done. The experience felt insular, our world was happening on stage, we felt responsible for presenting what we worked so hard on. There was definitely a collective buzz of excitement but it didn't really explode from us until we turned around to bow after the finale. The audience rose and roared with applause and we all burst with relief that they loved us! They really loved this crazy, radical show we made together. The curtain call was the opening of flood gates: tears, shock, awe, amazement. Obviously I still can't believe I'm on Broadway." -Satori Folkes-Stone (Shark Girl)


Debut of the Month: Meet the 33 Broadway Newbies of WEST SIDE STORY!

"I didn't even think I'd be making a Broadway debut! It was definitely one of those moments of divine timing that made it so I was a part of this production. I can't imagine myself doing anything else right now. It's such an honor to bring West Side Story back to Broadway with this amazing reproduction. Being able to work with people I absolutely love every single day has been the biggest gift of this experience so far. We're just getting started and I've already built friendships that will last a lifetime." -Zuri Noelle Ford (Anybodys)


Debut of the Month: Meet the 33 Broadway Newbies of WEST SIDE STORY!

"[The first performance] felt surreal and took a few moments to truly sink in. It began with awe like, "Wow, I am really on Broadway" and then those thoughts were washed over with pure gratitude and I continue to feel grateful with every performance." -Ui-Seng François (Jet Girl)


Debut of the Month: Meet the 33 Broadway Newbies of WEST SIDE STORY!
"Watching the show evolve into what its become/becoming has been my favorite part of the process so far. It's such a bold and daring production and I think we have the best and most equipped creative team to take the reins on this beast and reinvent it in the most beautiful way. I feel really privileged to have been able to witness the process from day one." -Yesy Garcia (Shark Girl/ Anita Understudy)


Debut of the Month: Meet the 33 Broadway Newbies of WEST SIDE STORY!

"I never expected West Side Story would be my Broadway debut. West Side Story is my favorite show so to make my debut in this iconic show is a dream. My younger self would be so excited to know that all my hard work has paid off, and the advice I would give her is to be patient and keep training because something amazing is coming." -Jennifer Gruener (Jet Girl)


Debut of the Month: Meet the 33 Broadway Newbies of WEST SIDE STORY!

"The first time I performed on a Broadway stage was such a surreal experience. I was conflicted with myself because I thought I would be really nervous, but I wasn't. However, after analyzing the situation, I understood that it was because we were prepared so well that I just felt ready and excited to share the stage with such talented people and to finally show what we have been working so hard on." -Matthew Johnson (Baby John)


Debut of the Month: Meet the 33 Broadway Newbies of WEST SIDE STORY!

"I've dreamed of being on Broadway for as long as I can remember, but I've never had any idea when or which show it would be. All I can say is I fell in love with West Side Story the first time I saw it, so I feel so blessed to be able to help tell the story on Broadway. Performing a show of this magnitude and prestige with a cast I love so dearly is a blessing. The music in West Side Story is extremely well crafted, and dance being my passion, I get excited every time I get to dance to such beautiful music." -Jarred Manista (Jet Swing)


Debut of the Month: Meet the 33 Broadway Newbies of WEST SIDE STORY!

"My younger self would never believe me if I told her that she'd be making her Broadway debut in 2020. I grew up dreaming of being on a Broadway stage and to think that my dreams have become reality is so crazy to me! Advice that I would give is to never compare yourself to others. Everyone is on their own path, so trust that yours is going to work out okay, as long as you work hard and strive to achieve your goals." - Michaela Marfori (Jet Girl)


Debut of the Month: Meet the 33 Broadway Newbies of WEST SIDE STORY!

"One of my friends told me (as a supportive friend, not because he knew) that I would be making my Broadway debut and my feature film debut with the same show even before I ever auditioned and I told him there was no way. It was truly unbelievable. Doing my Broadway debut with West Side Story happened to be one of those things that you dream for so long that, at times, we believe that it is all that it is: a dream." -Ilda Mason (Shark Girl Swing)


Debut of the Month: Meet the 33 Broadway Newbies of WEST SIDE STORY!

"The best part of my WSS experience so far has been being able to tell this iconic story in a new light. It's extremely relevant today and I feel honored to be part of this vision. Younger me would be extremely excited and eager for the time to come. If I could give my younger self advice, I would tell her to trust in the universe. What's for you will not pass you by." - Michelle Mercedes (Jet Girl)


Debut of the Month: Meet the 33 Broadway Newbies of WEST SIDE STORY!

"It still feels like a dream. I am so immensely grateful to be a piece of the puzzle. Younger me would have jumped, screamed, and latched onto present me's leg in ecstatic disbelief. My advice to him: lead with truth and life will place you EXACTLY where you're meant to be." -Paul Morland (Swing/Chino Understudy/Fight Captain)


Debut of the Month: Meet the 33 Broadway Newbies of WEST SIDE STORY!

"What can truly make or break an experience are the people you are with, and I feel so blessed to be alongside such a loving and wickedly talented cast, especially my incredible swing/understudy family. We have held each other up since the beginning, and are constantly celebrating each other! With that said, the opportunities I've had to play Maria have been some of my most cherished moments of this process. Playing Ivo van Hove's version of this piece is extremely visceral and thrilling, which has been the opportunity of a lifetime." -Mia Pinero (Swing/Maria Understudy)


Debut of the Month: Meet the 33 Broadway Newbies of WEST SIDE STORY!

"This show has been our entire lives for the past five months, with new ups and downs every day, but I think what I enjoy most are the interactions I get to have with my co-workers, onstage and off, even something as small as saying hi to someone as we cross under the stage, a few words while we're waiting for our entrance in the finale, or cheering on a swing who is debuting in a new track. Getting a beautiful fresh haircut every week by Val (from Camera Ready Kutz) is also a huge perk." -Gus Reed (Gee-Tar)


Debut of the Month: Meet the 33 Broadway Newbies of WEST SIDE STORY!

"West Side Story has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. My grandpa is the only other singer/performer in my family and he used to sing "Maria" to me at a very young age. He always told me how West Side Story was his favorite musical. I have had multiple opportunities to do the show before but had to turn them all down for other opportunities that made more sense career-wise at the time so there was a point where I thought I had crossed out every chance I was going to get of doing the show. I'm excited to finally be working on such a masterpiece and to be part of the creation of such a historic revival." -Michael Seltzer (Jet Swing)


Debut of the Month: Meet the 33 Broadway Newbies of WEST SIDE STORY!

"I remember the first performance and I will for years to come! The roaring audience and emotional speech from Isaac will be cherished in my heart forever. I felt extremely calm beforehand and ready to share the work this production worked tirelessly on. The best part has been feeling a part of a family that's so new in many ways but we're all working towards the same goal of bringing our best selves to the stage and rehearsal space. We all really believe in the work and feel challenged by the idea of bringing something new to it. Having hard-working people around me is inspiring and makes me feel very eager to come to work everyday." -Madison Vomastek (Jet Girl)


Debut of the Month: Meet the 33 Broadway Newbies of WEST SIDE STORY!

"I would have never thought I would be making my Broadway debut doing West Side Story. It's such an iconic show that I grew up loving and to be a part of it with such a radical twist is a dream come true! It was my first "professional" audition out of high school so to have it full circle to be my Broadway debut is so ironic to me. Younger me would never believe that I would be on Broadway, let alone doing West Side Story on Broadway. I didn't even know I would still have the opportunity to continue a career in performing. If I had any advice for my younger self it would be to trust the universe, don't get discouraged by the 'no's' and embrace the 'yes's'." - Bridget Whitman (Jet Girl Swing)


Debut of the Month: Meet the 33 Broadway Newbies of WEST SIDE STORY!

"Eight-year-old Kevin would be ecstatic. This is his dream. The one goal in life he will work for throughout all of middle school, high school and college. Preparing to one day dance on Broadway. In response to his excitement, I would say, continue working hard and keep being different. Don't swim with the other fish. It'll be tough, but they'll always remember the one who swam upstream."- Kevin Zambrano (Shark)

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