A group of Performing Arts students from Edge Hill University have recently performed in a critically acclaimed production of West Side Story at Buxton Opera House.

The students took part in the musical, which marked both the 60th anniversary of its Broadway opening and the centennial of its composer Leonard Berstien, thanks to the University’s Student Opportunity Fund.

Paul Kerryson, chief executive of Buxton Opera House, felt West Side Story would be the perfect show to celebrate both milestones and to give aspiring young performers in the High Peak an opportunity to shine.

He said:

“We have taken people who may never have been on the stage and turned them into performers, and that is something I am really proud of and I hope they are too.”

Open auditions for the production were held in October, and joining the 50 strong cast were second year Musical Theatre students; Luke Fraser, Sean Roberts, George Coubrough and Naomi Athay.

Reflecting on her experience Naomi said:

West Side Story was fantastic, I met some wonderful and very talented people, some which I have kept in contact with. The production as a whole was amazing, to work with such a talented team was incredible. I would love to work with them all again.”

Debbie Norris, Senior Lecturer in Dance at Edge Hill University, choreographed the musical. She said:

“The students gave some outstanding performances and brought enthusiasm and passion to the stage, as we have come to expect from our students in the Performing Arts Department. The director Paul Kerryson noted their dedication to traveling the 100 mile round trip to Buxton for rehearsals each week. The support from the university and the Student Opportunity Fund made this experience financially possible.

“For Edge Hill students and myself, being part of this critically acclaimed production was a real privilege and a wonderful way to celebrate Bernstein’s phenomenal influence on Musical Theatre.”

Reviewing for Manchester Salon, John Waterhouse noted:

“The level of professionalism and polish could hardly be bettered by any West End production, with the energy and enthusiasm of the cast never wavering from start to finish”.

This experience was made possible by the student opportunity fund, which allowed the students to travel from the University to Buxton for auditions and paid for their accommodation for the week whilst the show was on.

The Student Opportunity Fund is an exciting initiative that enables you to apply for financial support and take part in activities which enhance your employability and develop your transferable skills.

If you are an undergraduate or PGCE student at Edge Hill University, you can apply for up to £2,000 to support a career-enhancing project, initiative or opportunity that will enrich your student experience and enable you to stand out in a competitive environment.