​Leighton Park School's stellar production of 'West Side Story' earns rave reviews

Posted on 23rd Feb 2024 in School News, Drama, Performing Arts

Leighton Park School’s senior production, the iconic musical ‘West Side Story’, enthralled audiences with its timeless tale of love and conflict. Showcasing the immense talent and commitment of Leighton Park's students and staff, the production ran from 6th- 9th February earning multiple rave reviews. 

“We were bowled over with the calibre of the production, which was hugely impressive and of real West End calibre!” remarked Nick Armitage, Head of Rupert House, Henley. 

Luissa Galloso, Head of English and Drama at St Piran’s, Maidenhead, exclaimed: “The performance of West Side Story was simply stunning. I was enthralled by the creativity, inspiration and sheer talent of all the performers who had worked incredibly hard to bring the stage and characters to life.” 

Visiting families likened the performance to that of the West End, with one parent declaring: “The quality of performance, attention to detail and choreography was way beyond expectations. [My child] totally felt she was at the West End”. 

Another audience member described the production as “mindblowing!”

Inspired by Shakespeare's ‘Romeo and Juliet’, ‘West Side Story’ transports audiences to the streets of 1950s New York City where rival gangs, the Jets and the Sharks, battle for control of their turf. Amidst the tension and violence, Tony, a former member of the Jets, falls deeply in love with Maria, sister of the Sharks' leader. Their forbidden romance ignites a violent chain of passionate events that ultimately lead to tragedy. 

In the spotlight as Maria and Tony were Eliza Rincon (Lower Sixth) and Aidan McCarthy (Upper Sixth), who shared their reflections on the exhilarating show. Brimming with enthusiasm, Eliza expressed her delight: “West Side Story is one of my favourite musicals, as I enjoy the soundtrack so much, so it was a joy to be cast as the lead. I really enjoyed preparing for the role, especially as my granny is Spanish. She really helped to develop my accent for the production. Bringing the show together at the dress rehearsal was amazing. The tech crew are so slick and the orchestra are absolutely brilliant; there is so much talent in all areas of the production.”

Aidan, in his debut theatrical endeavour, spoke passionately about the camaraderie that flourished among the cast, remarking: “Everyone in the production built closer bonds while working together, it made it much easier to get into our roles and mean what we were acting. It was my first time ever being in a play, and it was definitely a learning curve, but my main takeaway was I met a lot of people who I hadn’t spoken to much before. We built friendships and I built my confidence through this acting experience.” 

Peter Scoggins, Head of Drama, commented: “I simply love this musical performed by young people. The music, the book and the lyrics are, of course, genius but when creating West Side Story with actors the same age as the characters there is a special feeling that creeps in. I am so proud that the cast and crew were ready to fulfil their vision for the show and stood up to the challenge. We have worked together as a community to meet that challenge.”

Peter also referenced Leighton Park’s choreographer, Beth Butler, as “a genius” due to “being able to create work for advanced dancers and for novices that blend together seamlessly to create such an impact, it's simply an amazing example of 'Dance for All'”. 

Furthermore, the orchestra, conducted by Head of Music, Rosemary Scales, added depth and emotion to every scene with their flawless renditions of the show's memorable score and well-known songs such as ‘I Feel Pretty’ and ‘Tonight’. Comprised of a dedicated ensemble of musicians from across the Leighton Park community, their execution created an immersive auditory experience for the audience their passion for their craft enhanced the magic of the performance, earning them lauding comments from opening night attendee’s, such as “faultless” and “nothing short of phenomenal”.