THE Young Venture Players opened West Side Story last night at the Dolman Theatre to a full house and finished with a standing ovation by what can only be described as a ‘blown-away’ audience.

Based upon Romeo and Juliet, set in New York in the 1950s and featuring the music of Bernstein/Sondheim, the timeless and universal issues of racism, deprivation, violence and split societies resonated loudly when set against the story of the ‘star-crossed lovers’, Maria and Tony, played by the very talented Josie Ash and Harrison Smith.

From the opening scene, this was a show full of energy and colour, beautifully choreographed, the stage a scene of swirling dresses and darting dancers, the young actors conveying the necessary tone through song and dance. 

This could be seen by the humour in America, performed beautifully by Anita (Evie Brettel), Rosalia (Rachael McAuliffe) and the Shark Girls; the passion and emotion in the classic Tonight, sung by Tony and Maria; and the hugely funny Gee, Officer Krupke, that demonstrated the skill of the Jet boys in a fast-paced scene that showcased the talent of Action, played by Sam Spokes.

Bernardo, played by Kyle Catalla, was for me the coolest character, very reminiscent of John Leguizamo’s Tybalt in Romeo and Juliet (1996), showing some superb dancing skills.

The cast and ensemble were too numerous to mention, but it must be said that all played their parts superbly, creating what was a highly polished production, particularly impressive when we consider the ages of these young performers. 

An especially poignant show for Josie Ash and Harrison Smith in what is for both actors their last production, and both of whom, I hope, will continue to develop their careers in the theatre.

Julie Benson