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West Side Story at the Playhouse Theatre in Cheltenham.

By Gloucestershire Echo  |  Posted: March 22, 2013

By Helen Blow

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TRANSPORT yourself back to New York City in the fifties for a night of unforgettable songs, courtesy of Cheltenham youngsters.

Theatre Studio's student cast performs West Side Story over three nights from next Friday at The Playhouse.

Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim's celebrated musical, inspired by the Romeo and Juliet story, follows the rivalry between the Sharks and Jets.

Against the odds, Maria from the Sharks and Tony from the Jets fall for each other but is their love doomed because of gang rivalries, prejudice and family loyalties?

West Side Story features many classic musical songs, including America, Tonight, I Feel Pretty and the haunting Somewhere.

Immortalised on the big screen in 1961, the film starred Natalie Wood as Maria and was an instant hit, becoming a top choice for theatre musical directors ever since.

For Theatre Studio's production, two girls will be performing the role of Maria alternately.

Co-director Suzanna Segura, who also runs Theatre Studio, said: "We decided to have two girls doing the role as the part is so demanding on the soprano voice."

Sharing the role are Balcarras School student Annabel Lisk, 16, and Naomi Osmond, 18, who is a performing arts student at Cirencester College.

Gap year student Mike Fay, 19, takes on the role of Tony, before hoping to take up studies at drama school.

Suzanna said: "We chose West Side Story because it is such a beautiful musical with fabulous songs that has something for everyone.

"This is a 1950s love story and there are issues of relationships and friendship for the girls and fighting and gangs for the boys.

"We also felt that many of the issues addressed in the story also equate to the problems that go on nowadays among young people."

Directing alongside Suzanna is Andy Holloway, while James Rayner will be conducting a live band of students.

"The members of the band come from all over the county and there is nothing like live music to make a production come alive," said Suzanna.

Based at the Playhouse, Theatre Studio runs workshops in drama, dance and singing throughout the school term for students aged four to 18 years.

"We have around 250 students who attend our regular classes with more coming to our one-day workshops or during the holidays," Suzanna said.

"But in this production the actors' ages range between 14 and 19, so it is our senior students who will be presenting this musical."

Performances take place at 7.30pm, with a 3pm matinee on Saturday, March 30.

Tickets cost £10 and £8 concessions from 01242 522852. Visit www.playhousecheltenham.org for more details.

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