Video interview with Paul Tazewell (West Side Story costume designer)


On the list of iconic costumes of the past 60 years, few are probably as recognizable as Rita Morenothe famous purple dress from “West Side Story”. It’s an outfit that Anita de Moreno wears in what are arguably the two most iconic scenes from the Oscar-winning musical: the famous “Dance at the Gym” and then the performance of “America.”

“I was totally in love with the woman in the purple dress who was just dancing with that reckless abandon,” Ariana DeBosewho plays Anita in Steven Spielbergthe new version of “West Side Story”, previously Recount Golden Derby. “I desperately wanted to do this because I think I came out of the womb dancing. I loved it and I loved that she looked a bit like me. I guess I felt like it gave me permission to try to do things and to move very freely.

But when it came time to dress DeBose’s Anita for “America,” the costume designer Paul Tazwell had permission to go in another direction. Unlike the 1961 version of “West Side Story,” Spielberg’s “America” ​​takes place outside of “Dance at the Gym,” meaning Anita didn’t have to wear the same outfit. As a result, Tazewell landed on a bright yellow dress for DeBose’s Anita, an outfit that took center stage in “West Side Story” marketing.

“It’s a day in itself, it’s Anita and her friends driving through New York…all of them coming together throughout this day and being joined by the community, the Puerto Rican community. So it fills in a different moment,” Tazewell told Gold Derby in a new interview. “I needed to find something that was going to really support and embody all the energy that is ‘America.’ day, and I landed on this yellow tone. For me, it became a metaphor for the sun and this radiant energy.

Tazewell is an acclaimed costume designer, best known for his Tony Award-winning work on “Hamilton” and other Broadway musicals like “In the Heights” and “The Color Purple.” On television, Tazewell won an Emmy Award for “The Wiz!” Inhabit.” But “West Side Story” is Tazewell’s greatest feature to date – and for one of the most acclaimed directors of all time.

“We spent some time getting to know each other and understanding each other’s sensitivities,” Tazewell says of her relationship with Spielberg, who often uses the same department heads on his projects, but sought out Tazewell because of his work on “Hamilton”. “West Side Story,” says Tazewell, “has been a part of my life, probably since my interest and involvement in theater began when I was in high school. And that’s been in my blood, and also, I’ve always loved the original design. So in developing our version of “West Side Story”, I tapped into my own sensibilities and Steven’s interest to make it a bit more realistic. … It gives him a deeper and richer insight into what was going on at that time and how to represent New York in 1957.”

Watch the full interview above. “West Side Story” is in theaters now.

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