A TASTE of Broadway arrived in Lisburn last week as audiences were transported back to 1950s New York in the Friends' School production of the hit musical 'West Side Story'.
The five night run of the show provided a fitting showcase for a wealth of musical theatre talent as the pupils took to the stage and transported the audiences to the world of the Sharks and the Jets, two rival gangs who are locked in battle to control their inner city neighbours.
With a well known musical score that includes "Maria", 'America", "Tonight" and "I Feel Pretty", it was hardly surprising that tickets quickly sold out and many were disappointed.
The plot of 'West Side Story' has its roots in the Romeo and Juliet story and it allowed for a cast of 41 pupils. Bernardo and Riff established themselves as rival gang leaders at the outset, with Rory McIvor's confident swagger set against the "cool" posturing of David McCrossan.
The central love story between Maria and Tony, played by Orla McCormack and Matthew Good, sets out to challenge the warring gang culture and their scenes allowed both to display a range of emotions.
Accomplished vocal coach Ashley Fulton headed the direction of the show and the leads scaled the heights. Matthew and Orla's rendition of "Tonight" and "One Hand, One Heart" was worthy of a London stage and Riff's "Tonight" and "Cool" had a depth that confirmed David McCrossan as the stalwart of the show.
The quality of singing in the Finale sequence, as the leads preformed from the highest point literally on stage, confirmed them as budding stars of the future.
Mention must also be made of Rebecca McCullough who starred as Anita, Bernardo's girlfriend. She led the female troupe of Sharks and her Puerto Rican flounces captivated the audience.
The rendition of "America" by Anita and Bernardo was memorable and Anita's duet with Maria in Act 2, "I Have A Love", was hauntingly tragic. Audiences were moved also by "Somewhere", preformed by Amie Johnston as Graziella. The choreography was stunning. The big dance sequences seemed to be effortless and allowed a range of pupils from the junior to the senior school to be involved.
Jeremy Johnston and Jayne McCaughtry, as Choreographer and Production Manager, produced a seamless transition from acting and singing. Dance captains, Year 13 pupils Andrew Irwin and Kathryn Warke, put in many extra hours of rehearsals with the Jets and the Sharks to produce a flawless performance.
There were comic set pieces too with Emily Cully capturing all the youthful spark of Anybody's and Jordan Wilson delightful in his role as baby John.
One particular favourite set piece was "Gee Officer Krupke" in Act 2. Jack Walsh, as Action, led the way and, backed up by Eoin McAndrew, Mark McCann, Josh Gilmore and Jordan Wilson provided a spectacular song and dance routine satirising their not so favourite police officer.
With spectacular sound and lighting effects and an orchestra of the highest standard, the show had audiences spellbound from the beginning. Their appreciation was clear with standing ovations each evening.
At the close of the final performance on Saturday evening, Ashley Fulton presented the Producer's Cup to Rebecca McCullough and David McCrossan in recognition not only of the quality of their performances on stage but also their contribution throughout the rehearsals for the show.