Footlights’ finger-clickin’ Morningside Story

Jan 29 2013 | By More

Edinburgh University Footlights stage West Side Story

By Thom Dibdin

Edinburgh University Footlights open their new production of West Side Story at the Church Hill Theatre tonight, Tuesday 29 January 2013.

In the early 1950s, choreographer Jerome Robbins thought to transpose Shakespeare’s tale of romance and rivalry, Romeo and Juliet, to the streets of New York. Collaborating with lyricist Stephen Sondheim, composer Leonard Bernstein and writer Arthur Laurents the eventual result was one of the great musicals of the 20th Century.

Frank Derrington as Riff, Liam Wilkinson, Jordan Laverty, Izzy Stoker, Greg Lass, Sarah Lamb and Ethan Baird as the Jets. Rehearsal photo: Mihaela Bodlovic

West Side Story follows the events of two days and two nights as rival youth gangs, the Puerto Rican Sharks and the American Jets, attempt to construct an identity – or escape from one – through the dreary alleyways of New York’s Upper West Side. It’s against their macho violence that the tale of Tony and Maria plays out, as they find compassion, laughter and company across the divide.

Producer Mihaela Bodlovic told Æ: “What we really tried to achieve with this production is the balance between honouring the tradition of West Side Story and the singular elements that make the musical so iconic. The music and themes are timeless, yet the story itself is very much tied to its 1950s setting.

“We are keen to reach out to both the dedicated fans of Laurents, Bernstein, and Sondheim’s work – and completely new audiences. We hope they will all find the story and its characters as relevant today as they were when the musical first premiered.”

The cast has been reduced to 22 for this production. The director, Roxy Cook, felt that this offered a lot more room for every character to develop in a natural way, allowing them to contribute to every scene as much as the leads. It also gives all the actors more space to connect with the story.


Cook said: “This year, the Footlights are paying homage to the brilliance of Robbins’ original concept while bringing something fresh to it, delighting old fans with Bernstein’s unsurpassable score performed by a thirty-piece orchestra, and engaging its modern audiences through a blend of traditional and new aesthetic, direction and choreography.”

Jessica Barker as Anita, with Camilla Parkes, Emma Middleton and Georgina Sheppard as Shark girls. Rehearsal photo: Mihaela Bodlovic

Choreographer Aniela Piasecka added: “Our Jets are brim with the pseudo-machismo of a young athletics team, while our Sharks find their inspiration in cultural traditions from bullfighting to Spanish matador dances. Footlights’ production is a rich and passionate piece where no character fades into the background and everybody has their own story.”

Founded in 1989, Edinburgh University Footlights is a performing arts society comprised mainly, but not exclusively, of students at the University of Edinburgh.

West Side Story runs Tuesday 29 January – Saturday 2 February, Church Hill Theatre, Morningside, Edinburgh. Shows daily 7.30pm (Sat mat 2.30pm). Tickets £12.50 (£8.50 concs, £6.50 students) from the XTS Pro website:

Edinburgh University Footlights website:

Full cast details:
The Sharks

Claire Saunders – Maria
Jess Barker – Anita
Alex Poole – Bernardo
Ewan Mood – Chino
Olivier Huband – Pepe
Finlay MacAulay – Indio
Emma Middleton – Rosalia
Georgina Sheppard – Consuela
Camilla Parkes – Teresita

Claire Saunders and Michael Sawaryn as Maria and Tony. Rehearsal photo: Mihaela Bodlovic

The Jets
Michael Sawaryn – Tony
Frank Derrington – Riff
Jordan Roberts-Laverty – Action
Greg Lass – A-rab
Liam Wilkinson – Diesel
Ethan Baird – Baby John
Izzy Stoker – Anybodys
Kinvara Hubbard – Velma
Roz Ford – Graziella
Sarah Lamb – Minnie

Alex Gray – Doc/Glad Hand
Callum O’Dwyer – Officer Krupke
Martin MacLennan – Detective Schrank

Production Team
Producers: Mihaela Bodlovic (Commercial) and Tom Paton (Technical)
Director: Roxy Cook
Musical Director: Dan Glover
Choreographer: Aniela Piasecka
Production Designer: Celia Dugua
Costume Designer: Stacy Jansen
Technical Manager: Bryn Jones
Stage Managers: Emily Woolfenden, Pippa Atkins and Hetty Tapper


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