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Preview: West Side Story at Yarm PAA

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Local actor cast in a cast for musical production

West Side Story
Yarm Princess Alexandra Auditorium
Tuesday 4th to Saturday 8th April 2017

Director and Choreographer JOANNE HAND
Musical Director NIGEL BALL

Being cast as Tony in the musical classic West Side Story has more than one meaning for local actor Neil Harland.

Neil Harland
Neil was all set to play one of the lead roles in Spamalot (NETG Review) with local theatre company Darlington Operatic Society, but unfortunately just 2 weeks before the show was due to open, Neil suffered a torn achillies tendon and had to pull out of the production. He did not miss out completely, however, as Neil attended every performance and acted as an ‘off stage’ singer.

But Neil took advice from one of the Spamalot songs and he ‘looked on the bright side of life’ in preparation for the company’s current production - West Side Story.

Neil told us “I was absolutely distraught when it was clear I would have to pull out of Spamalot – all credit to Luke Oldfield who came in at the last minute to play the role of Dennis / Sir Galahad with just 5 rehearsals before opening night.” He continued “I attended the West Side Story auditions on crutches and with my leg still in a heavy cast, I had to sit during the entire audition so didn’t feel I had given of my best, so to get the call later that day telling me I had landed the lead role was an absolute joy and a great pick-me-up.”

West Side Story is a modern day telling of Romeo and Juliet – a story of love, hate, anger and intolerance. Set in the height of 1950s New York gangland, the Jets, and a new gang of Puerto Ricans, the Sharks, are deadly rivals. The bitterness of youth, racial stereotypes and a passionate defence of home territory results in regular ‘rumbles’ between the two gangs. When Tony – the once leader of the Jets falls in love with Maria – the sister of Bernardo, leader of the Sharks, their lives take a dramatic twist and life will never be the same again. A passionate love affair begins amid some of the best songs ever written for musical theatre including the classics “Something’s Coming”, “Maria”, “Tonight”, “One Hand, One Heart” and “I Have A Love”.

Neil will play opposite Rhiannon Walker (Maria) supported by Karen Stone (Anita), Edwin Taylor (Riff), Jason Slater (Bernardo), a full cast of 30 performers and a 19 piece live orchestra who will all be working full-out to ensure West Side Story reaches the West End production values expected from Darlington Operatic Society.

Company spokesman Julian Cound said “We continually look to improve show on show – regardless of the glowing reviews we always get, we have a young, talented company that wants to work hard, learn and improve, which is just what any production team wants to hear. From what I have seen in the early stages of rehearsals this is going to be an emotional and energetic spectacular for audiences – be prepared to be dazzled by the choreography and ride an emotional rollercoaster.”

Darlington Operatic Society presents West Side Story at the Princess Alexandra Auditorium in Yarm from Tuesday 4 to Saturday 8 April. Tickets are £16 for adults and £12 for children (14 and under) and are on sale now by calling the ticket hotline on 01325 244 659 or by booking online at

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