Theatre production at the Minack Theatre
Added on 17 Mar 2010
Students from Bath Spa University are to stage the iconic musical West Side Story at one of the country's most spectacular and prestigious open-air venues.
They will be performing it at the Minack Theatre in Cornwall, famous not only for top-quality productions but also for its stunning clifftop location. The Minack is a 1000-seater ampitheatre carved out of the rock high above Porthcurno Beach near Lands End.
It's yet another coup for Bath Spa University's Full Tilt Theatre Company and Artswork Senior Teaching Fellow Emma Gersch who is director of the show. Emma has already directed two sell-out Shakespeare productions at the Minack Theatre - Hamlet in 2006 and The Comedy of Errors in 2008.
Emma has auditioned 300 students for the 40-strong cast in West Side Story. The production involves staff, students and invited graduates from Music, Dance, Drama, Theatre Production and Performing Arts courses at Bath Spa University and one of its partnership colleges, Weston College.
The show will bring together students from across the various departments. For example Jennifer Tugley, playing Maria (Music Theatre Foundation Degree, Weston College), will play opposite Mitch Miller as Tony (final year BA Performing Arts, Bath Spa University).
Emma Gersch said: "This is our most ambitious show yet and is technically very demanding. It is also one of the best-loved musicals of all time, so most audiences have their bar set quite high. This will be a superb showcase for the talent that we have here at Bath Spa University.
"Since we have established a tradition of reinvented Shakespearean productions, West Side Story feels like a natural progression, as it is of course a brilliant re-telling of Romeo and Juliet. Set in 1950s New York, these 'star-crossed lovers' are from the warring Puerto Rican and American factions. The themes of gang and gun crime sadly couldn't be more pertinent today."
The choreographer is Sam Grogan, Bath Spa University's Head of Performing Arts, while the musical director is Harry Burt, a recent graduate in BA Music from Bath Spa.
An otherwise conventional production to emulate the show's original staging in the 50s, an interesting twist comes in the cross-gender portrayal of a male role, Lieutenant Shrank. It will be played by a woman, Terri Power, who is a senior lecturer in Drama at Bath Spa. She is currently researching the history of theatrical cross-dressing for her nearly completed PhD. Last year Terri directed an acclaimed cross-gender production of Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew, which toured the UK. As the only genuine American member of the cast, Terri will also be providing accent coaching.
West Side Story will be performed at the Minack Theatre throughout the week 28 June to 2 July, starting at 8pm each evening with matinees on the Wednesday and Friday. Tickets will be available via the Minack website www.minack.com from 22 March.