David Winters ‘Cool’ solo, in ‘West Side Story’

Dance · Film · Theater
Jets boys, David Winters at center in red

In an interview with Toni Basil that includes rare footage of the original Broadway cast of West Side Story, Jerome Robbins protege David Winters (1939 – 2019) explains how he conjured his unusual solo in the role of “Baby John” in 1957.

When it came time for the making of the movie, Winters had grown out of the role, and was swapped to playing “A-rab.” The solo came along with Winters for the ride. So in the movie, despite Eliot Feld playing “Baby John” it is Winters who dances the neurotic outburst in “Cool.” The film version is brilliantly led by Tucker Smith.

This West Side Story trivia comes courtesy of Toni Basil who worked with Winters as his assistant, famously on The T.A.M.I. Show and more. Toni, who has one of the best eyes in the business considers Winters’s “Cool” solo as “one of the greatest I’ve ever seen in terms of merging acting and dancing.”

“I saw the cast perform the number on the Ed Sullivan Show,” said Toni. “It became a light-bulb moment for me to work with him and to be his assistant.”

Robbins, center, rehearsing “Cool”

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