West Side Story

West Side Story, first performed sixty years ago on Broadway, remains the unsurpassed musical. Bernstein’s brilliantly infectious score is a perfect match for Sondheim’s dramatic lyrics. The tension between rival groups, familiar from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, is re-created for our own time, in the story of Jets versus Sharks, focusing on the pair of lovers and their ultimate fate.

Presenting such an elaborate drama is always a challenge. With an enormous cast singing, acting and dancing, plus the complexities of staging, an orchestra of three dozen players, and the nitty-gritty of production, everything needs to be carefully coordinated. 

A special challenge confronts the prospect of a school production. Hosted by Guildford High School, their girls were joined by boys from Guildford’s Royal Grammar School in a splendid run of four performances. Excellent standards were achieved in all respects, and it was salutary to be told that the average age of the performers was 16. One could forget that this was a school production with youngsters, given their remarkable maturity, flair and confidence. Special mention should be made of the brilliant star-struck lovers, Tony (Myles) and Maria (Charlie). 

Congratulations are due to Ashley Fenton (director), Emilie Forrest-Biggs (musical director), Kim Walrond (choreographer), and very many more. Above all, such a collaboration between two top schools, whose music is led by Grayson Jones (GHS) and Peter White (RGS), is to be welcomed most warmly. Pupils are sure to cherish such a valuable educational experience for far longer than classroom lessons.

Sebastian Forbes (Emeritus Professor, Surrey University)