Brilliant West Side Story hits the heights at Theatre Royal, in Bury St Edmunds

The Irving Stage Company staging a captivating production of West Side Story at the Theatre Royal, i

The Irving Stage Company staging a captivating production of West Side Story at the Theatre Royal, in Bury St Edmunds. - Credit: Archant

It’s one of the most iconic musical dramas of its kind and those who already have tickets for this latest production by the hugely talented Irving Stage Company are in for a real treat.

But a word of warning ... you may need a few tissues at hand for some of the scenes which really pull at the heart strings.

And for those of a nervous disposition be prepared for one shocking moment that will make you literally jump out of your seat, at the Theatre Royal, in Bury St Edmunds.

The beautiful and moving West Side Story, set in the streets of New York, centres round the waring gangs of the American Jets and the Puerto Rican Sharks and their struggle to survive in a world of hate, violence and prejudice ... a poignant and timely reminder of some of the high profile trouble spots and conflicts around the world we are currently reminded of almost on a daily basis.

It is all told through the powerful lyrics of Stephen Sondheim and accompanied by the complex, brilliant and awe-inspiring music of Leonard Bernstein.

The challenging score of the composer, however, was faultlessly played by the 18-piece orchestra buried beneath the stage guided by their musical director Mark Jefferson. It was a major ingredient to the success of the show and enabled the two leads; Tony, played by Jonathan Lodge, and Maria, wonderfully performed by Lucy Allen, to display their vocal talents to the limit which at times raised the hairs on the back of your neck.

The two lovers, who are thrown into the mix of the street violence, are fantastic with their portrayal of the pair with their duets being the highlight of the show particularly their sumptuous renditions of Tonight and One Hand, One Heart.

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Jonathan’s limelight vocals of the haunting Maria and the Sharks’ song and dance routine of the foot-tapping America were other highlights while the Jets were not to be outdone with their comical Gee, Officer Krupke.

Nick Bennett, as Jets’ leader Riff; Ben Child, as the Sharks’ head honcho Bernardo; and Melissa Castiel as Anita, Bernardo’s girlfriend, are all terrific, while the many tricky contemporary and classical dance routines, which must have been a huge challenge to not only choreograph, teach and ultimately learn complimented the music.

Performances continue tonight and tomorrow at 7.30pm with a matinee on Saturday, at 2.30pm. Tickets from the box office on 01284 769505 or online at

Russell Cook