West Side Story (NYMT, Manchester)

Kristy Stott is impressed by the scale, power and authenticity of National Youth Music Theatre’s production of West Side Story.

Victoria Warehouse, Manchester

<i>West Side Story</i>
West Side Story

The Victoria Warehouse seems to ooze with pride as it offers up its stage for the National Youth Music Theatre’s production of West Side Story. A cast of 40 incredibly talented young actors and an orchestra of 35 skilled young musicians manage to recreate 1950’s New York within the stifling walls of the exposed brickwork of the old warehouse.

Designer Takis and director Nikolai Foster both use the space well, segmenting the performance area, using a trailer style corrugated iron structure to break up the large warehouse into separate settings.

The impressive floor space is used by the whole company for the larger numbers and the raised iron containers house the smaller more intimate scenes. Ben Cracknell’s lighting design is a real highlight, complementing the production completely- moving from cosy ambient lighting though to big, showy effects with ease and fully utilising the stark bricked walls by littering them with striking silhouettes and projections.

Perhaps the most powerful aspect of this show is the epic scale of the production and the talent of the young people in it. All of the company give striking performances, most are still in their teens, which suits the age of the roles they take on, however, their experience and talent seems to exceed their years.

Sienna Kelly gives an astonishing performance as Anita, an excellent all-rounder – as mesmorising an actor as she is a singer and dancer. Maria (Amara Okereke) and Tony (Jon Tarcy), complement each other entirely, their duets are well handled and sensitive, with Amara Okereke’s voice showing a maturity far beyond her sixteen years.

Bernstein’s elaborate score resonates from the back of the stage, where the young orchestra, some as young as twelve, deliver with vibrancy and flair. There is something truly uplifting about the work of The National Youth Music Theatre – witnessing so many talented youngsters working towards such a grand and high octane production.

Choreographer Drew McOnie gives them the moves and they deliver with beauty and grace. And Nikolai Foster has crafted a perfect production.

I left Victoria Warehouse feeling inspired by the amazing talent and determination of these young people and the special platform that The National Youth Music Theatre has given them.

And judging by the rapturous applause and the standing ovation, most of the audience felt exactly the same.

– Kristy Stott