Review: West Side Story, Stafford Gatehouse Theatre

There’s a mistake here; the programme says this is an amateur production.

Review: West Side Story, Stafford Gatehouse Theatre

Putting on a powerful performance: (L-R) Cassie Curno, Zoe Lawton-Allen, Alicia Cortes-Pooler and Emilia Harrison.

And yet everything about the latest Musical Youth Theatre Stafford – or Myts for short – screams professionalism, talent and big, big production.

The stage set alone for this powerful and engrossing retelling of Bernstein and Sondheim’s classic would put many a travelling professional company to shame; simple, yet effective and offering the perfect backdrop to a talented cast.

For years now, Myts has been showcasing and developing local talent and it will be fascinating to see how many of the older key players’ careers progress as they head out beyond their A-levels studies.

Tom Slade is a veteran of the shows and takes centre stage here again as Bernardo, leaders of The Sharks, facing off against Alistair Peet and his rival Jets. Both bring great maturity and presence to their roles, especially during the tense stand-off leading to their ill-fated ‘rumble’.

Similarly, there is great chemistry between star-crossed lovers Josh Russell (Tony) and Holly Musgrave (Maria), while the ever-brilliant Lewis Warren continues his run of energetic roles as hot-headed Action.

Abbie Venables provides a convincing moral compass as Doc and the police double-act of Aaron Mace and Sam Simkin hits the just the right note.

Star of the show however is Becky Lyle, stealing centre stage with ease with a captivating performance as streetwise Anita.

Younger talent also shines through, with Charlie Allen-Smith note perfect and Edward Innocent pulling in the laughs.

Built as much on dance as song, choreographer Marie Robinson-Wood has to take great credit for putting together such a spell-binding show.

And then, of course, there are those unforgettable songs, America, Somewhere and I Feel Pretty among many memorable highlights.

The only drawback is the chorus being seriously underused, especially as the set and the show itself is at its most spectacular when the stage is filled with the whole cast.

At times, the lack of numbers on stage seemed baffling given the overall size of the group and the potential for emphasising the depth of Myts talent.

But overall, the show is another triumph for director David Reynolds and his young charges. Miss it, miss out.

Runs until Saturday.

By Keith Harrison

Add your comment