Whitgift School Lower Sixth Student, Rahmon Agbaje, reviews Whitgift School’s recent production of West Side Story in conjunction with Old Palace of John Whitgift School.

West Side Story, this year’s highly-anticipated Upper School musical, was hosted by Whitgift over four spectacular nights, at the beginning of March.

The modern take on Arthur Laurents’ 1957 book, and Jerome Robbins’ musical, sold out within weeks, and was performed each night in front of an audience which included parents, friends, Ambassadors, Old Whitgiftians, and other friends of the School.

The famous musical, based on the story of Romeo and Juliet, revolves around the romance between a Puerto Rican girl (Maria), and a member of her brother, Bernardo’s, rival gang (Tony), which ends in tragedy. The 50-strong cast, which consisted of pupils from both Whitgift and Old Palace of John Whitgift School, was directed by Director of Drama, Mr Lloyd Beecham, who described them as the ‘finest cast I have ever worked with’. This positivity was echoed by Director of Music and Performing Arts, Mr Paul Wilson, who commented, ‘there was a huge buzz about this performance’.

The stage crew and technical team did a fantastic job in taking the audience to the streets of New York, and the setting made for a wonderful night, as the lighting and staging were professional, flawless and vivid.

Impressive performances were on show from School Captain, Geddy Stringer (Tony), and Talisa Tossell (Maria). Rory Allen (Bernardo) and Charlie Melbourne (Riff), as the leaders of the Sharks and the Jets, also put in first-rate performances, and the build-up of tension throughout the scenes was evident for the audience when both these characters featured. Tense moments were well-contrasted by cheeky humour from Louis Danckwerts (Baby John), Alex Buchanan (A-Rab) and Todd Kelly (Glad Hand). The choreography was imaginative, creative and acrobatic, and included ballet and Thriller-style dancing.

The dazzling music was provided by an orchestra of predominantly Whitgift pupils, and conducted by Director of Orchestral Music, Mr Philip Winter. They performed numbers such as America, I Feel Pretty, and Somewhere, with incredible rhythmic energy and drive. The orchestra did a perfect job in setting the right tone for each scene, and was further enhanced by strong vocal performances from Geddy Stringer, and Talisa Tossell, whose incredible range amazed everyone.

Overall, the talented cast conveyed this enthralling love story superbly, and the show was very successful. Mr Wilson described this as ‘a great time for Whitgift music, theatre and drama’.