West Side Story is a firm favourite amongst amateur groups across the country and with this iconic musical reaching its big 60th anniversary; Buxton Opera House decided to undertake the task with a mix of both amateur and professional players in the production.

The staging is fairly simple but effective with scaffolding towers and Heras type fencing panels around the stage and as the show began, the show did its job in instantly transporting you to the west side streets of New York City.

To those of you who don’t know West Side Story, it’s about two rival gangs; the Jets and the Sharks and a Romeo and Juliet inspired love story between members of opposing gangs thrown into the mix.

And when both gangs come out onto stage, It is quite remarkable to think that some of the performers on stage tonight had not been in any other stage show before, and that’s because this production is just so slick.

Riff (the leader of the Jets) played by Lucas Bailey and Bernardo of the Sharks played by Luke Clayton are perfectly cast as the gang leaders and deliver a rousing performance as do the rest of the cast.

Bernardo’s girl Anita played by Natalie Coverley was terrific in portraying this feisty character, her performance of ‘America’ with the ensemble was West End worthy. It really was!

The leads; Tony and Maria played by Jak Shelly and Alexandra Hazard were spellbinding; their chemistry and emotion was captivating throughout and they held the audience to the point where you could hear a pin drop in numbers like ‘One Hand, One Heart’ and ‘Somewhere’. The entire cast really delivered, from the perfect dance routines to amazing vocals, there was nothing amateur about any of the cast.

The only one negative for me would be that the microphones for a number of cast weren’t switched on until they were half way through dialogue or verses but it’s opening night and it’s a very minor thing and shouldn’t take away what a richly talented production this is, Director Paul Kerryson has kept this show very true to the original adding slight touches to compliment this timeless classic.

This production has clearly had lots of time, thought and effort put into it, with over 65 people behind it; everyone of them should be immensely proud.

Verdict: I don’t believe it’s amateur, this was top notch!

Reviewer: Max Eden

Reviewed: 21st February 2018