Leighton Park School was thrilled to announce its recent senior production of the iconic musical ‘West Side Story’, which enthralled audiences with its timeless tale of love and conflict. The production ran from the 6th to the 9th of February and showcased the immense talent and commitment of Leighton Park’s students and staff. With multiple raving reviews from the opening night alone, the production was nothing short of pre-eminent.
Inspired by Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’, ‘West Side Story’ transported audiences to the streets of 1950s New York City, as the Jets and the Sharks, two rival gangs, battled for control of their turf. Amidst the tension and violence, Tony, a former member of the Jets, fell deeply in love with Maria, the sister of the Sharks’ leader. Their forbidden romance ignited a chain of events that ultimately led to tragedy.
In the spotlight as Maria and Tony were Eliza Rincon (Lower Sixth) and Aidan McCarthy (Upper Sixth), who shared their reflections on the exhilarating show week. Eliza, brimming with enthusiasm, expressed her delight, saying, “West Side Story is one of my favourite musicals, as I enjoy the soundtrack so much, so it was a joy to be cast as the lead. I really enjoyed preparing for the role, especially as my granny is Spanish it really helped to develop my accent for the production through her help. The show has built my confidence a lot, the role required me to throw myself into it and it has really built me as a person. Bringing the show together at the dress rehearsal was amazing to see the show come to life, the tech crew are so slick and the orchestra are absolutely brilliant, there is so much talent in all areas of the production”.
Aidan, in his debut theatrical endeavour, spoke passionately about the camaraderie that flourished among the cast, remarking, “Everyone in the production built closer bonds while working together, it made it much easier to get into our roles and mean what we were acting. It was my first time ever being in a play, and it was definitely a learning curve, but my main takeaway was I met a lot of people who I hadn’t spoken to much before. We built friendships and I built my confidence through this acting experience. Everyone has been part of such a supportive community and the production was just so full of passion. Everyone was so into their roles and it really showed how much everyone just enjoyed the experience. I wanted to mention Bella, another lead role, she was the veteran of the group. I got such an insight into the world of theatre through her. Being my first time in a production it was amazing to be surrounded by such talented people who knew so much about the craft”.
Peter Scoggins, Head of Drama, commented “I simply love this musical performed by young people. The music, the book and the lyrics are, of course, genius but when creating West Side Story with actors the same age as the characters there is a special feeling that creeps in. I’ve never been so moved in rehearsals and in the performance as I have with this cast. The proudest aspects of this show are many…I think that the way that the cast, who are all different ages and personalities have pulled together to tell this story with such sensitivity has to be mentioned but overall, I feel blessed that I can give the opportunity to those with such stunning talent to really shine. For example, I think our choreographer Beth Butler is a genius because she has been able to create work for advanced dancers and for novices that blend together seamlessly to create such an impact, it’s simply an amazing example of ‘Dance for All’”.
“The central pairing of Aidan and Eliza is magic. Vocally and temperamentally, they are a perfect match for their roles but their talent takes it to another level. I have to mention Iris too, who played Riff with such passion. She is the driving ‘motor’ of the show with a focus on the performance, charisma and fearless theatre skills that give momentum to the whole piece. The kindness of the cast to each other, and their teachers, through the whole process has been extraordinary and this has helped to really build an amazing team. As the performance came into focus before the performance dates, we collectively saw what could be achieved and I am so proud that the cast and crew were ready to fulfil their vision for the show and stood up to the challenge. We have worked together as a community to meet that challenge”.
The orchestra, conducted by Head of Music, Rosemary Scales, added depth and emotion to every scene with their flawless renditions of the show’s memorable score. Their skilful execution elevated the production to new heights, creating an immersive auditory experience for the audience with many well-known songs from the musical such as ‘I Feel Pretty’ and ‘Tonight’. Comprised of a dedicated group of musicians from across the Leighton Park community, the orchestra’s passion for their craft shone through in every note, enhancing the magic of the performance and earning them resounding applause night after night.
‘West Side Story’ was a resounding success, captivating audiences and leaving an indelible impression on all who experienced it. An audience member from opening night expressed astonishment, stating, “The quality of performance, attention to detail and choreography was way beyond expectations. [My child] was in awe and it’s such a powerful inspiration for her. She also said on the way home she totally felt she was at the West End. If I wasn’t away on business, I’d come again!”. Furthermore, a Leighton Park parent raved, “What an incredible performance! We loved every minute of the beautiful singing, gripping action and listening to a faultless orchestra. What a talented cast and production team. Well done to everyone, you should be extremely proud”. Another audience member exclaimed, “Opening night was mind-blowing! An absolutely brilliant production”.
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