Words by Paul Gallear
Running from Weds 23rd to Sat 26th Aug, the New Alexandra Theatre in Birmingham presents its annual Stage Experience production – West Side Story. For direct info, including venue details online ticket sales, click here.
Stage Experience is an opportunity for 9–24 year olds to spend two weeks of their summer mounting a full-scale production of a classic musical and then perform it to a paying audience.
A range of opportunities are open to applicants. As well as performing roles, lighting, sound, wardrobe, and stage management positions are all available for people to hone their talents. Previous productions include Grease in 2016, 42nd Street in 2015, and Footloose in 2014. This year it’s the Bernstein and Sondheim adapted for stage classic, West Side Story, with just two week’s preparation until curtain-up.
The narrative of West Side Story, based on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, is a well-known one: two street gangs in Upper West Side New York, both alike in infamy, is where we lay our scene . . . (okay, I’ll stop now). The Jets and The Sharks vie for control of dominance of a New York neighbourhood. Tony, former leader of The Jets, and Maria, sister to the leader of The Sharks, fall in love across the bounds of the rivalry. They plan to run away together. But can they escape the clutches of gang life, or the downward spiraling circumstances and rising levels of violence?
West Side Story is one of composer Leonard Bernstein’s and lyricist Stephen Sondheim’s most famous Broadway musicals. With the book by book by Arthur Laurents and the choreography by Jerome Robbins, West Side Story first hit the stage in 1957, winning critical acclaim and Tony Awards.
It went on to make the transfer to the silver screen in 1961, winning a total of ten Academy Awards at the 1962 Oscars – including Best Picture and Best Director, a record for a musical. It will afford those who took part in this year’s Stage Experience the opportunity to tackle such well-known songs as ‘Maria’, ‘America’, and ‘I Feel Pretty’.
And for the audience, this could turn out to be a fantastic place to see the stars of tomorrow performing in their first role. But there are also lots of risks: with the short rehearsal time and the inexperienced nature of the cast, as well as West Side Story being such a well-known and well-liked musical, it is possible that the Stage Experience could fall short. But equally, the fresh talent could bring something exciting to a show now in its 60th year – a silver lining of many new cast productions. The joy, both on stage and off, is finding out.
Daily performances of West Side Story at the New Alexandra Theatre start at 19:30 with a 14:30 matinee on Saturday – running from Weds 23rd to Sat 26th Aug. Tickets will cost between £16.50 and £26.90 (though Theatre Card holders can get tickets for as little as £15.00) plus booking fees. For direct information, including venue details and online ticket sales, click here.
For more from the New Alexandra Theatre, including full event listings and online sales, visit www.atgtickets.com/venues/new-alexandra-theatre-birmingham