Hit musical West Side Story comes to North East

A PASSIONATE story of forbidden love and bitter rivalry comes to the North East this week when curtains go up on the hit American musical West Side Story.

The iconic show has been brought to the North East by Day8 Productions – the Whitley-Bay-based company which aims to professionalise amateur theatre – and features classic tunes from ‘Maria’ and ‘Somewhere’ to ‘I feel Pretty’ and ‘America’.

Inspired by William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, West Side Story is set in the mid-1950s and explores the rivalry between the Jets and the Sharks, two teenage street gangs of different ethnic backgrounds.

The show, which will be performed at Whitley Bay Playhouse from April 24 to 28, tells of the heart-rending love affair between Tony, one of the Jets, and Maria, the sister of Bernardo, who is the leader of the Sharks.

The musical is being staged after Day8 won support from the Royal Shakespeare Company as part of its Open Stages programme, which aims to develop and celebrate amateur theatre and re-forge the bond with the world of professional theatre.

Rather than the same members taking the lead parts for every production, Day8 hold open auditions for each show to bring fresh faces to their audiences. West Side Story comprises a cast of more than 30 talented actors from across the North East, ranging in age from 14 to 59.

The company has stayed true to the essence of West Side Story and is staging the production in the 1950s with many of the cast wearing authentic costumes from the period.

Karen Knox, creative director at Day8, said: “West Side Story is such an iconic piece of theatre and although many companies have modernised it we wanted to bring it right back to the 1950s. It’s timeless and it has controversial issues which are still relevant today.

“We’re really excited about this production. It’s a fantastic show and it has a special place in the hearts of young and old alike. It’s vibrant, it’s passionate and it’s the ultimate love story.”

The show’s striking dance routines have been choreographed by Julia Murray while the 12-piece orchestra, under the direction of Day8’s musical director Mark Deeks, brings each musical favourite alive.

The cast includes Graham Lindup, who plays Tony; Ellie Roxburgh, 22, as Maria; Alex Eastern, 21, as Riff; Chris Teale, 24, as Barnardo and Alisar Taylor, 36, as Anita.

West Side Story is Day8’s seventh production. Previous hits include The Buddy Holly Story and Jesus Christ Superstar.

West Side Story will be at the Whitley Bay Playhouse from April 24 to 28. Performances start at 7.15pm with tickets priced from £15.

For more information and tickets contact 0844 277 2771 or www.playhousewhitleybay.co.uk

Pic Cap: Shark attack: The Sharks in Day8 Productions’ West Side Story, pictured are Chris Teale, Sam Vernon, Alex Moffat, Josh Tovey and Earl Gill.

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