A new production of West Side Story at Buxton Opera House is the result of executive director Paul Kerryson’s quest to give young people a chance to shine.
The opera house has always provided an outlet for creative youngsters, but his aim is to provide something more for young people, which is why he put a call out for High Peak singers and dancers aged between 16 and 29 years old last autumn.
“You never quite know who is going to turn up to auditions, but talented young people exist in every town – you just have to give them a chance and push them forward and open doors for them,” he explained.
“Our aim is to provide the professional expertise that will enable them to showcase their talent and build their confidence.”
One performer who was part of a similar project Paul ran during his time at Curve in Leicester has since gone on to star in the West End and the director says there is no reason why the same couldn’t happen for undiscovered talent in Buxton.
“What is really important is that the production is good enough to switch them on and keep them focused and also for it to be a box office success. That’s one of the reasons we have chosen West Side Story as our first show with this group of people.
“West Side Story is celebrating its 60th anniversary and is considered by many to be the most exciting musical ever written.
“It is the perfect choice for us as it is timeless. There will always be gangs on the streets and there will always be people in love and the show therefore resonates with the cast.
“Our show will speak to a new generation of young people and the spectacular set, lighting and costumes will ensure a truly memorable production and create a professional working atmosphere for the cast.”
To help Paul bring out the best in the raw talent chosen during the auditions he has enlisted professional choreographer Debbie Norris.
“Dancing and movement is everything in this musical, and I chose Debbie to join the team because she is very knowledgeable in working with young people and she will certainly bring out the best in them,”
Paul explained that the opera house was also revamping its learning and participation activities with the younger age group, who have been producing shows in the town for several years.
“We are looking at everything we do with the aim of improving what we offer. I hope we will be able to bring those young people on so they can eventually join the older group. I also want to create a legacy from what we are doing with West Side Story, with more productions in the future.”
West Side Story can be seen at the opera house from February 21-25. For tickets go to http://www.buxtonoperahouse.org.uk