When Steven Spielberg put out a casting call for the role of Maria in West Side Story, it stipulated: “Must be able to sing.”
The girl he has chosen certainly fits the bill. Rachel Zegler, aged just 17, has no professional acting experience but her vocal talents are in no doubt after a video of her singing to an empty school hall went viral on social media.
Zegler, a student at a high school in New Jersey and a part-time wedding singer, beat 30,000 other hopefuls to the coveted role.
Two years ago she set up her own YouTube channel featuring homemade videos, some recorded in the bathroom, performing cover versions of pop songs and show tunes. On the site she describes herself as “infatuated with theatre, musicals and the people who help them to happen”.
In December she posted the Twitter video of her performing Shallow from A Star Is Born, with a caption pointing out that she did not use auto-tune. In the space of a few weeks it has been viewed more than seven million times.