IT was the understudies’ night as two actors stepped up from the chorus to take leading roles in the latest version of the classic musical West Side Story.
But Charlotte Baptie, who played Maria, and Sinead Kenny as Anita, owned their new roles and gave accomplished performances that stood out in this slick, visually stunning production.
Although its roots lie in Romeo and Juliet, West Side Story is more about the breakdown of race relations and frustration at a lack of opportunities, than the kind of family feud that blighted the Montague and Capulet households.
Set in 1950s New York, the background of gang culture and disillusionment among opposing groups of young men in West Side Story are still relevant today and this was a compelling and thought-provoking show.
Louis Maskell as Tony gave a dramatic and musically brilliant performance.
His rendition of Maria was truly romantic, and his duets with Baptie (Tonight and One Hand One Heart) were a real highlight.
The dance routines were a joy to watch, and that energy carried through to the fight sequences between the rival gangs the Sharks and the Jets.
West Side Story is an intense experience that portrays male bravado, gang rivalry and ingrained racism with a gritty realism while asking if love can be enough to get men to set down their knives and put a stop to violence.
* West Side Story is at the Mayflower until Saturday, May 3. Tickets on 02380 711811 or at mayflower.org.uk.