August 2013

Victoria Warehouse, Manchester

Based on a conception of Jerome Robbins
Book by Arthur Laurents
Music by Leonard Bernstein
Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim


RIFF (the leader) - Dominic Harrison
TONY (his friend) - Jonathan Tarcy
ACTION - Nathanael Landskroner
A-RAB - Sario Watanabe-Solomon
BABY JOHN - Isaac Gryn
DIESEL - Stuart Thompson
SNOWBOY - Michael Byers
BIG DEAL - Brian Murray
GEE-TAR - Benedict Welch
TIGER - James Gulliford

ANYBODYS - Gloria Obianyo
GRAZIELLA - Grace Morrison
VELMA - Jessamie Waldon-Day
PAULINE - Katy Stokes
CLARICE - Anna Britton
MINNIE - Suzie Curran
PEGGY-SUE - Laura Hayward
BRENDA - Emma Miller

BERNARDO (the leader) - Max Jorquera
MARIA (his sister) - Amara Okereke
ANITA (his girl) - Sienna Kelly
CHINO (his friend) - William Leaf Puvanesan
PEPE - Louis Rayneau
INDIO - Jonathan Hermosa-Lopez
LUIS - Cristian Zaccarini
ANXIOUS - Andrew Walker
NIBBLES - Ben Jones
TORO - Tadek Chmiel
MOOSE - Jamie Dodd

ROSALIA - Megan Gilbert
CONSUELO - Seren Sandham-Davies
TERESTITA - Clair Gleeve
FRANCISCA - Molly Benjamin
ESTELLA - Drou Constantinou
MARGARITA - Nikita Leigh Sellars
EVA - Lauren Ellington

DOC - Julian Bailey-Jones
LT SCHRANK - Charlie Jamieson
KRUPKE - Jonathan Ross
GLAD HAND - Jamie Dodd
SOMEWHERE GIRL - Rebecca Ridout

Jessica Shears - piccolo, flute, alto saxophone, clarinet
Camellia Johnson - Eb/Bb clarinets, bass clarinet
Daniel Ephgrave - flute, tenor & baritone saxophones, clarinet, bass clarinet Catherine Underhill - oboe, cor anglais, alto saxophone
Adam Stoodley - piccolo, flute, soprano & bass saxophones
Hope Tong - bassoon
Freddie Miles - horn 1
Christen van den Berghe - horn 2
Zak Eastop - trumpet 1
James Symington - trumpet 2
Connor Baldwin - trumpet 3
Rhiannon Symonds - trombone 1
Alec Coles-Aldridge - trombone 2
Nick Chave - piano/celeste
Curtis Volp - guitars, mandolin
Tristan Butler - drum kit
Rhydian Griffiths - percussion
Alice Angliss - percussion
Benjamin Varnam - percussion
Megan Landeg - percussion
Stephanie Childress - violin
Hayley Pope - violin
Yuto Yamahara - violin
Izzy Jones - violin
Joe Eaton-Kent - violin
Katie Batchelor - violin
Edith Humphries - violin
Ziding Zhang - cello
William Coulter - cello
Alexander Soul - cello
Emma Farmer - cello
Kome Eleyae - double bass

Director - Nikolai Foster
Designer - Takis
Choreographer - Drew McOnie
Musical Director - Tom Deering
Lighting Designer - Ben Cracknell
Sound Designer - Tom Marshall
Costume Supervisor - Natasha Mackmurdie
Assistant Choreographers - Lucinda Lawrence & Jaslyn Reader
Assistant Musical Directors - Alexander Beetschen, Nicholas Chave
Assistant Set Designer - Anna Bonomelli
Wardrobe Assistants - Chloe Cammidge, Elizabeth Rose Crossman, Annabel Louise Davies, Angharad Gwyn, Hannah Letley, Fiona Lockton, Melanie Nurdin, Amy Steele, Beth Winter
Properties Assistant - Puisan Law
Graphic Designer - Phill Davis
Photographer – Matthew Hargraves

Lighting Programmer – Alex Passmore
Lighting Operator – Jon Henry
Sound Operator – Matt Williams
Production Sound Engineers – Victor Lopez, Charlie Simpson
Follow Spot Operators – Dian Dundon
Stage Manager – Tom Kitney
Deputy Stage Manager – Elaine Yeung
Assistant Stage Managers – Josh Greetham, Ryan Stafford, Charles Vaughan
Production Managers: Gary Beestone & James Henshaw
Producer - Jeremy Walker for NYMT



The Stage – Shenton’s View
Reviewer: Mark Shenton
Rating: Yes, that's 10!

Only you, you’re the only one I’ll see forever

I’ve confessed before to being a serial repeater, particularly for pleasure rather than duty, when there’s a show I particularly like. Just last week I was admitting here, too, to going to see the current revival of A Chorus Line for the fourth time in a blog in which I also wrote about revisiting West Side Story at Sadler’s Wells, five years after I saw it there last.

And since writing that blog, I’ve seen A Chorus Line now for a fifth time, as well as another entirely different production of West Side Story – and re-visited The Color Purple at the Menier Chocolate Factory. And just in case you’re wondering, as people sometimes do here, yes – I do often pay for tickets….

…But the biggest revelation of the last week for me was seeing West Side Story in a dazzling reinvention by the National Youth Music Theatre in a reclaimed warehouse space in Manchester. Usually used for raves, here we were plunged into the gritty, urban world of a Manhattan rumble, and the wide, expansive space allowed for an ideal forum to allow Drew McOnie to landscape his extraordinary choreography across.

Professional productions are usually required, by the terms of the licensing requirements under which they are staged, to always recreate the original Robbins choreography (“only you, you’re the only one I’ll see forever,” sings Maria in ‘Tonight’, but it seems she could be talking about the choreography on professional stages); and while on the one hand, there’s no improving on perfection, there’s also a certain artistic liberation in being able to see it in a completely new way outside of those restrictions, which this creative team have been allowed to do. The joy of Drew McOnie’s work is that it is classically inspired, just as Robbins’ was, but also pulses and shimmers to its own distinctive vision, beautifully displayed by this eager young cast. There’s rawness and eagerness, vigour and danger in every step they take, and re-make; the usual critical language of dubbing it bold and breathtaking just won’t do. Instead, it does something even more vivid: it makes you look at the whole show in a new way. Never was I more keenly aware of how brilliantly Leonard Bernstein’s symphonic dance music provides its own choreographic inspiration and textures; the movement feels entirely organic and indivisible from the music.

That’s also thanks to a creative partnership that also includes director Nikolai Foster and musical director Tom Deering, who are working to intricately complement and harness each other’s skills. Musicals are famously collaborative creations, but this team – whose work I previously thrilled to when they worked together with another group of students in a production of Kander and Ebb’s Kiss of the Spiderwoman at ArtsEd last year – is the dream team.

I dubbed that at the time “the best student musical production I’ve ever seen”, and this West Side Story may now have me transferring that accolade here. And if the Sadler’s Wells production got a five-star review from me, this one may have to get ten.

The great shame, of course, is that it was only seen in Manchester for four days; I do hope NYMT can find a way to do it again. And if the extraordinary young company is full of stars of the future – I was overwhelmed by the quiet emotionalism of the 16-year-old Amara Okereke’s Maria – this creative team is a dream team, too, and are surely stars of the musical theatre to come in Britain.

Musical Theatre Review
Reviewer: Roderic Dunnett

West Side Story, a National Youth Music Theatre production, was staged at the Victoria Warehouse, Manchester.

It’s new for the National Youth Music Theatre to launch a show outside London, and it’s a triumph that West Side Story has been staged – like Graham Vick’s Birmingham Opera Company stagings or Kenneth Branagh’s riveting Macbeth – in an unusual out-of-centre venue (the Victoria Warehouse near Old Trafford, a 19th century industrial store which is spacious, testing and quite brilliantly used).

The production, directed by Nikolai Foster, unforgettably choreographed by Drew McOnie and sensitively conducted by musical director Tom Deering, is a show to cherish and cheer about.

Are there reservations? Nineteen-year-old Jonathan Tarcy’s initially rather staid Tony (but then, Tony is withdrawn, diffident) takes longer than Amara Okereke’s visually and vocally appetising Maria to establish himself. Happily, he relaxes and softens up. Awkward early moves and an unengaging blank face suddenly wax natural. Vocally, he zooms – ‘Something’s Coming’ is terrific.

By ‘One Hand, One Heart’, the lovers are singing from the same hymn sheet. Tony’s alienation from street life – despite the revenge murder he impulsively commits (slaying the Sharks’ leader Bernardo, played by the very capable Max Jorquera) – is particularly well established.

Bernardo’s victim, Riff (16-year-old Dominic Harrison) is one of the notable treats of the evening, as he exudes remarkable peer command and musical charm. If only we’d seen, and heard, more (Harrison’s ‘Jet Song’ and ‘Cool’ go like a dream). All these young singer/actors would, I’m sure, point out the real heroes are the the show’s immortal composer Leonard Bernstein and lyricist Stephen Sondheim – while librettist Arthur Laurents wonderfully transforms the Verona of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet to New York’s impoverished Upper West Side. The poverty of the surroundings is beautifully portrayed via Takis’ atmospheric, forlorn two-layer set.

Foster’s direction periodically shines. The slick way his Jets issue from Doc’s Drugstore for a set piece wide-amphitheatre dance, then dissolve back into a compact blocking rear-stage, is jaw-dropping. Every one of McOnie’s magical dance sequences take the breath away (give or take the odd loss of tension once or twice at a changeover).

Tarcy’s Tony apart, there are ten members of the Jets – aged 14–18 – each given an eye-catching sequence at some point. Fourteen-year-old Nathanael Landskroner (Action) deserves mention for his touching pathos near the close. Sario Watanabe-Solomon (A-rab) is one of the hippest, punchiest and raunchiest gang members, a kind of replacement leader after Riff’s death. William Leaf Puvanesan contributes plenty as Shark boy Chino.

Among the 15 talented girl gang aficianadas, Megan Gilbert (Rosalia) and Sienna Kelly (Anita) are outstanding, and the all-too brief ‘America’ (reprise needed?) takes the roof off. The Ibsenesque interruption from the mysterious Somewhere Girl (Rebecca Ridout) is stunning.

Credit to Ben Cracknell for the superb lighting. Musical director Deering has a subtle, restrained, instinctive grasp for what works best. Here he cleverly allows both the phenomenally talented young 32-strong band and the singers to blossom.

British Theatre Guide
Reviewer: Richard Vergette

In its illustrious 37-year history—which includes a number of Edinburgh Fringe Firsts, BAFTA shortlisting for its TV adaptations and numerous international tours—it is difficult to imagine that the National Youth Music Theatre has ever been on better form than in its current production of West Side Story, staged at The Victoria Warehouse in Manchester.

West Side Story has its detractors. It’s become rather chic to suggest that it's dated (it hasn’t) or that the second half doesn’t work because the comic number “Officer Krupke” sits awkwardly with the tragic tone of the rest of the act (it works brilliantly and it doesn’t sit awkwardly at all). In so doing it suffers from the same self-parodying criticism that is often levelled at great art or artists—e.g. Laurence Olivier was really a bit of a ham and the Mona Lisa is just a picture of a grinning broad.

It’s all rubbish and West Side Story is an indisputable work of genius; and if you dispute that I may have to ask you to step outside for a while. Assuming that we have future governments who don’t starve the the arts of resources and live theatre is still around in 100 years, I’d bet my house that West Side Story is still produced. What is less certain is whether future productions will be as good as this one.

If the realisation of this extraordinary musical came about because the creators of it (Sondheim, Bernstein and Laurents) were all at the top of their respective games, then the same may be said of the production team here. Nikolai Foster is rapidly gaining a reputation as one of the country’s leading directors and, on the strength of this production alone, its pretty easy to see why.

Gutsy, unsentimental, compelling, pacey and assured, his direction is matched by some breathtaking and muscular choreography by Drew McOnie. The entrance of the Jets, 'America', 'The Rumble' all were greeted by spontaneous cheering and applause.

But these weren’t really standout moments because the whole show was a two and a half hour glorious standout moment. The design by Takis in transforming the Victoria Warehouse in 1950s gangland New York is not just imaginatively economic, it also creates a harsh, grubby yet febrile environment for the inevitable tragedy to be played out. The musical direction is frankly superb and the 30+ youth orchestra stunning.

Then there is the company of actors themselves. In a uniformly outstanding display of ensemble playing it perhaps seems invidious to mention individuals. But the hell with it, I will anyway. There were excellent performances from Dominic Harrison and Max Jorquera as the doomed gang leaders Riff and Bernado respecitively; Amara Okereke made a beautifully sensitive and utlimately tragic Maria. Sienna Kelly (Anita) has the poise, timing, confidence and stage presence of someone twice her age (she’s 17) and Jon Tarcy (Tony) at 19 is the finest interpreter of a lyric of any performer of his age I have ever heard.

This is the National Youth Music theatre at its finest. A company of utterly committed, fearless and passionate performers who have taken on one of the toughest and finest pieces of musical theatre ever written—and totally nailed it.

I could go on and—if you’re in my local tonight at the same time as me—I will. This is what theatre should be and so often isn’t. It wasn’t just an emotional journey, it was a visceral, shattering uplifting experience which left you stunned and yet wanting more. I’m relieved and grateful that at the age of 50 I can still watch theatre which makes me jump spontaneously to my feet at the end while desperately trying to wipe the tears away before anyone notices.

The Baz
Reviewer: Jonathan Baz

Shows don’t come much bigger than West Side Story's translation of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet into the streets and alleys of New York. With a stunning interpretation, the National Youth Music Theatre’s (NYMT) stage the show in Manchester’s Victoria Warehouse, itself a glorious reclamation of what was only recently, urban deprivation and where once stood thriving docks. Takis' set design, all steel container units evokes the poverty of the story's rival street gangs, whilst the containers’ stacking amidst iron staircases and ladders suggest the staircases that cling to tenement buildings and so define Manhattan.

Nikolai Foster, Drew McOnie and Tom Deering are an established triumvirate of excellence as director, choreographer and musical director respectively. These men combined are greater than the sum of their parts and the magic that they have worked with NYMT’s young company is at times jaw-dropping and frequently spine tingling. Deering (taking time out from MD’ing The Colour Purple) has coaxed the most exquisite sound from his 30 strong youth orchestra. The sound bounces off the steelwork in a way that must have Bernstein smiling approvingly from above and whilst all the musicians are first-rate, the brass section is a special delight whilst Deering’s percussionists make the second act’s Cool, sizzle!

The show’s Prologue which sees the stage filled with balletic thugs whose street fight is a vision of grace and technical brilliance is swiftly followed by the Dance At The Gym, one of musical theatres most celebrated dance scenes. McOnie does not disappoint and with cleverly choreographed routines and clever use of colour, the tension of the dance, the rivalry of the gangs and the spark of love between Tony and Maria is cleverly captured. These two numbers set a standard of dance that is sustained throughout.

Foster is famed for an ability to focus on depth and nuance. He is helped in that the perfectly voiced Amara Okereke’s Maria is a remarkable turn from an actress who is just 16, whilst Jon Tarcy’s Tony grows into a performance of depth and sensitivity. Sienna Kelly’s Anita is a definitive performance of that hot blooded Latina, whilst Rebecca Ridout’s solo performance of Somewhere brings a rarely heard anthem-like beauty to this classic number.

The show has always offered some sharp moments of comedy. Gee, Officer Krupke in particular is a song that provides a welcome chuckle amidst the show’s slowly rising body count. In a recent tweet, Foster himself observed that the song must rank amongst the greatest in the canon, being so subversive, political and sardonic. A young Sondheim set himself a tough bar with this song’s lyrics and the troupe of NYMT young men who sing it in Manchester come as near as damn it to having an encore demanded of them, such is the excellence of their merciless caricatures.

Ben Cracknell's use of smoke and countless clever spotlight plots gives a lighting texture to the performance space that at all times enhances the action. Credit too to the sound team who do a fine job, ensuring that voices are heard over a huge and challenging orchestral sound.

West Side Story is further proof of how the NYMT, under Jeremy Walker’s leadership and vision, maintains its reputation for excellence. The company’s tackling of major and innovative works of musical theatre under the creative supervision of some of the industry’s leading practitioners, is nothing short of inspirational for those young people fortunate enough to be its members and continues to lay down a sound foundation for this country’s musical theatre future.

Whats On Stage
Reviewer: Kristy Stott

Kristy Stott is impressed by the scale, power and authenticity of National Youth Music Theatre's production of West Side Story.

The Victoria Warehouse seems to ooze with pride as it offers up its stage for the National Youth Music Theatre's production of West Side Story. A cast of 40 incredibly talented young actors and an orchestra of 35 skilled young musicians manage to recreate 1950's New York within the stifling walls of the exposed brickwork of the old warehouse.

Designer Takis and director Nikolai Foster both use the space well, segmenting the performance area, using a trailer style corrugated iron structure to break up the large warehouse into separate settings.

The impressive floor space is used by the whole company for the larger numbers and the raised iron containers house the smaller more intimate scenes. Ben Cracknell's lighting design is a real highlight, complementing the production completely- moving from cosy ambient lighting though to big, showy effects with ease and fully utilising the stark bricked walls by littering them with striking silhouettes and projections.

Perhaps the most powerful aspect of this show is the epic scale of the production and the talent of the young people in it. All of the company give striking performances, most are still in their teens, which suits the age of the roles they take on, however, their experience and talent seems to exceed their years.

Sienna Kelly gives an astonishing performance as Anita, an excellent all-rounder - as mesmorising an actor as she is a singer and dancer. Maria (Amara Okereke) and Tony (Jon Tarcy), complement each other entirely, their duets are well handled and sensitive, with Amara Okereke's voice showing a maturity far beyond her sixteen years.

Bernstein's elaborate score resonates from the back of the stage, where the young orchestra, some as young as twelve, deliver with vibrancy and flair. There is something truly uplifting about the work of The National Youth Music Theatre - witnessing so many talented youngsters working towards such a grand and high octane production.

Choreographer Drew McOnie gives them the moves and they deliver with beauty and grace. And Nikolai Foster has crafted a perfect production. I left Victoria Warehouse feeling inspired by the amazing talent and determination of these young people and the special platform that The National Youth Music Theatre has given them.

And judging by the rapturous applause and the standing ovation, most of the audience felt exactly the same.

The Public Reviews
Reviewer: Jo Beggs

Take seventy-five supremely talented young people from across the UK, throw them into the theatrical hothouse that is the National Youth Music Theatre and offer them an amazing Manchester warehouse to play with for a few nights. What better thing could happen than West Side Story – one of the greatest musicals of all time. From the industrial yard to the scratch bar – as soon as you walk into Victoria Warehouse you know you’re somewhere special. And tonight this red brick voluminous beauty is transformed into 1950s Manhattan. Takis’s stark industrial design makes the most of the vast stage, with stacked shipping containers creating both height and intimate spaces. Ben Cracknell’s glorious lighting design seamlessly flicks from the stark to the cosy to the downright showy, with roving spots, stark fluorescent strips, and warm floods casting fabulous shadows on the exposed brick walls.

And amongst all this the magic happens.

A cast of forty makes for a great musical but must be quite a challenge for the creative team. You wouldn’t know it. Both Foster’s direction and McOnie’s choreography demonstrate a complete delight in the space, using every corner and level. The big dance numbers are consistently slick and delightfully exuberant with the entire cast showing astonishing levels of ability.

What works so well here is that the cast are precisely the right age for their roles. It makes their posing and preening, their pointless aggression and its terrible consequences totally believable. They look like kids because they are – mostly still in their teens. But their astonishing performances belie their inexperience. Sixteen year old Amara Okereke delivers an assured, confident performance as Maria. Okereke’s voice has an astounding maturity and she handles challenging numbers such as Tonight and One Hand, One Heart with ease, whilst also demonstrating a delightful comic side in I Feel Pretty. Jon Tarcy as Tony provides a fitting beau for her and their voices work well together in the duets. Sienna Kelly is an amazing all-rounder as Anita, an extremely competent actor and singer but truly captivating when she dances. The 35-strong orchestra doesn’t let the side down, delivering Leonard Bernstein’s notoriously complicated score from the back of the stage. Tom Deering conducts, and he and the musicians have clearly worked hard to achieve this fantastic, faultless performance.

It would be great to think that in a few years time some of these young people will be doing their thing – be it performing, designing, directing or crew – on the professional stage. It won’t be a big leap for many of them. But whatever route they take in the future, making this work is bound to stay with them for the rest of their lives. The National Youth Music Theatre offers amazing opportunities, giving aspiring young people the opportunity to create something great. The audience knows they’ve seen something special tonight. The standing ovation is well deserved.

Manchester’s Finest
Nikki Cotter

Walking into the legendary Victoria Warehouse and sensing the simmering anticipation for the opening performance of NYMT’s production of West Side Story is a feeling I won’t forget in a long, long time.

Takis’ set design is awesome, imposing yet intimate; the vast stage set amongst the interior rawness of the Warehouse with its exposed brickwork and wide open spaces is stunning. Shipping containers are used to superb effect to create height and intimacy, all is complimented perfectly by Ben Cracknell’s outstanding lighting design, moving from the fast and punchy to the dark and murky with shadows cast beautifully on the surrounding brickwork, through to the truly beautiful and breath-taking.

With a cast of forty I knew we were in for a treat vocally, what I hadn’t anticipated was the absolute visual thrill Drew McOnie’s outstanding choreography would offer. Raw, energetic and original every single cast member put their heart and soul into each and every piece. I sat in my seat desperate to be up there and be one of the girls, Sharks or Jets I couldn’t care less, everyone looked like they were having the time of their lives. Director Nikolai Foster has worked so hard to ensure his cast use every inch of this delightful space to its full advantage; it truly is an epic production. With a cast of forty I knew we were in for a treat vocally, what I hadn’t anticipated was the absolute visual thrill Drew McOnie’s outstanding choreography would offer.

At times you forget this is a youth theatre, any West End performer would give their right arm to deliver performances like the ones we’ve seen tonight. The intimacy and affection between the exceptional Jon Tarcy (Tony) and Amara Okereke (Maria) is heart-warming and their delivery of ‘One Hand, One Heart’ simply beautiful. Sienna Kelly (Anita) is outstanding, strong, emotional, passionate and proud, no doubt on her way to becoming a big, big star. Compliments should be paid to each cast member, the ensemble is tight and immensely talented, particular highlights being the comical performances from the Jets during ‘Officer Krupke’ and the goose bump-inducing, ‘Tonight’ delivered by the entire company.

The 35-strong orchestra delivers Leonard Bernstein’s classic score from the back of the stage exquisitely. Tom Deering conducts his musicians faultlessly the hard work and dedication of this exceptional team is admirable. The National Youth Theatre have created something truly special here tonight, the standing ovation is more than deserved, if you have to beg, steal or borrow do whatever it takes to see this outstanding show.

Showbiz Shel
Reviewer: Michelle Eagleton

“Something’s coming, something good…”

Trying to produce one of musical theatre’s masterpieces West Side Story is a challenge for any production company. There’s an enormous amount of pressure to do Leonard Bernstein’s score justice and match the stunning Jerome Robbins choreography that we all witnessed in the award-winning 1957 film.

This didn’t put off the National Youth Music Theatre from choosing the musical as their end of Summer season show.

The risk was worth it.

From the opening strings of Leonard Bernstein’s famous score until the last note was played everyone in the audience was glued to the performances coming from cast of 40 and the 35 musicians as they performed the musical masterpiece West Side Story.

I’ve never seen a more exhilarating, energetic and engaging opening sequence, setting the scene as the Jets clash with the Sharks. Director Nikolai Foster makes full use of the unique and versatile space of the Victoria Warehouse with an array of exits and entrances for the cast making you feel like they are in the heart of a New York neighbourhood.

Takis has created an impressive set design inspired by the industrial feeling of the warehouse. Huge corrugated iron crates (usually more at home in a shipyard) are placed on top of each other to house the sets of The Drugstore, The Attic, Maria’s Bedroom, Anita’s Bridal Shop.

For West Side Story to be played at its best it need to be a little raw and that’s where this production excels-having the performers range from 14-22 makes the piece very ‘real’ as they match the ages Arthur Laurents meant them to be in the original book.

Amara Okereke shines as Maria portraying a real innocence with an angelic voice to match. Playing her star crossed lover Tony John Tarcy showed a few first night nerves but soon loosed up and gave a goose-bump inducing duet with Okereke in ‘One Hand, One Heart’.

Sienna Kelly stood out in the role of Anita putting in a sassy and confident performance. Kelly is a versatile performer, excelling in singing, dancing and acting- a real star in the making.

Others to watch out for are Max Jorquera and Dominic Harrison who played Bernando and Riff respectively. Strong performances from the two 16 year old lads providing the perfect tension between the rival gang leaders and they fizzled with energy and raw talent.

Drew MacOnie has done an outstanding job with the choreography making full use of every beat of Bernstein’s score through epic dance routines which see 30 plus onstage at the same time (no mean feat).

Foster’s direction throughout gives a real pace to the piece and his scene transitions are both slick and fast keeping the audiences emotions high -guaranteeing they don’t take their eye of the action unfolding. It’s completely mesmerising.

Ben Cracknell’s lighting complements the action, with a great use of coloured light beams to add drama to the gang chases and fight sequences. Cracknell also creates a magical moment as the scene transforms into the ‘dance’ lighting the whole auditorium with a glitterball effect.

It’s easy to just concentrate on the actors on stage but as the show draws to a close you realise that the orchestra playing the wonderful score all evening is also a youth orchestra which has you even more impressed as the standard of the production. The fact it doesn’t once cross your mind that the youngest member is just 12 years old which is a testament to their professionalism and talent.

I could go on about this production forever giving plaudits to all involved but to sum it all up I’d say this was one of the most powerful productions I have ever seen.





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