Tuesday, June 18

West Side Story – Eccleston Theatre

Pendleton School of Theatre continues with its season of shows with their latest production of West Side Story. Pendleton’s Musical Theatre students have a reputation for excellence and considering their age and experiences in musical theatre they never disappoint, by consistently delivering outstanding productions. Tonight’s West Side Story has raised the bar even higher yet again with a sterling cast of excellent performers!

I was lucky enough to have watched ‘Chorus Line’ last year and was pleased to see some familiar faces back on the stage. Ian Bennett Director of the 2023 production returned to his role to deliver this magnificent display of West Side Story.

West Side Story is a musical conceived by Jerome Robbins with music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by the late Stephen Sondheim. It is a modern representation of the classic story of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ but this tale is set in the mid 1950’s in the upper West Side of Manhattan – New York. The ‘Sharks’ and the ‘Jets’ are rival gangs fighting for the same territory. Tensions rise as a Shark girl named Maria and a Jet named Tony fall for each other, but the problem is that this is a forbidden love as they are from different ethnic backgrounds. The Sharks are migrants from Puerto Rico and the Jets are American white boys fighting for a dominant place in the neighbourhood, and many are opposed to the love-struck couple. Tony is desperate to escape the Jets and find a new path in life, he spots Maria the sister of Shark’s leader Bernardo at a dance. Tensions soon boil over resulting in deadly consequences where the warring sides must face the reality of their conflict.

The casting of the main leads is strong with both couplings of Maria (Elise Evans), Tony (Kaden Boote), Anita (Niamh Kelly) and Bernardo (Adam Byrne) giving believable and first-class performances. The delivery from Evans and Boote of the iconic songs such as ‘Something’s Coming’, ‘Maria’, ‘Tonight’, ‘One Hand, One Heart’ was phenomenal with their pitch perfect Soprano and Tenor voices perfectly matching each other, huge applause to them both on their successful and magnificent portrayal of these legendary characters. Both Kelly and Byrne were sublime in their interpretation of the Hispanic couple, each showing maturity beyond their years with a talent to match any professional. A personal highlight was Kelly’s depiction of Anita as I found myself mesmerised by her stage presence and captivated by her voice, the rendition of ‘America’ with Rosalia (Tilly Holah) and the Shark girls was sensational with the most wonderful choreography and stunning vocals. Equally Kelly’s Duet with Evan’s during ‘A Boy Like That/I A Love’ was one of the most emotional scenes I have witnessed from this cohort. ‘I Feel Pretty’ was another magnificent display of the exceptional talent from Evans, Rosalia (Tilly Holah), Consuello (Namumba Kawala), Teresita (Ella Speakman) and Francisca (Rhianna Foster) all executing fantastic vocals and dance moves.

The strongest part of this musical was the choreography which is colossal credit to Hannah Davies as each dance scene was just scandalously ablaze and off the Richter scale in its magnitude of brilliance and coordination.

Each and every cast member has clearly worked hard to deliver this breathtaking musical, and I would love to name them all individually, but please be assured that your role was just as significant as the leads in delivering this astounding production of West Side Story’s musical.

Both casting of the Sharks and the Jets were exceptional, and their individual interpretations of the gang members were a credit to them all, special mention to Daisy Garbutt for her tremendous solo of ‘Somewhere’. Stand out performances from Jay Talbot as A-Rab, James Prentice as Action and Thomas Cunliffe as Snowboy.

Enormous credit to the Production Team for creating a versatile set for the cast to work with, superb lighting throughout the performance with only a few minor microphone fails from the sound crew. The whole production was enhanced by the wonderful 11-piece live Orchestra, playing throughout under the Musical Direction of Nathan Jarvis.

Well done to all involved, I strongly advise anyone to grab a ticket and witness the stars of the future perform on stage at The Eccleston Theatre!

Reviewer: Katie Leicester

Reviewed: 15th May 2024

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.