I like to be in America... ...and the Tower Ballroom!

Blackpool and Fylde College drama students during rehersals for their show 'West Side Story' in the Tower Ballroom.
Blackpool and Fylde College drama students during rehersals for their show 'West Side Story' in the Tower Ballroom.
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A theatre company from Blackpool’s School of Creative Arts and Digital Industries will perform the first ever full musical production to be held in the famous Tower Ballroom.

The students are performing West Side Story, complete with the show stopping tunes, Maria, America and I Feel Pretty, on December 10 and 11 with performances starting at 7.30pm.

West Side Story updated and reinvigorated Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet for a modern audience by setting it in 1950s New York City, with the warring Montague and Capulet families replaced by gangs, the “Sharks” and the “Jets”.

Playing the lead role of Tony, a co-founder of the Jets, is Ryan Ashley, who is studying a BA (Hons) in Musical Theatre. He says he is excited about the opportunity the production is presenting to him.

He said: “I’m very excited for it, and to play Tony is quite a challenge.

“I get a lot of the iconic songs that I’m going to tackle, such as Maria, and getting to play one of the iconic roles of musical theatre in the Tower Ballroom is exciting.

“My last role in Carousel, Billy Bigelow, was a huge role for me and I was nervous, but with this I managed to channel all that nervous energy into positivity.”

Despite the company’s production of Carousel at the Blackpool Grand Theatre being well received, the cast and crew say the size of the new venue presents a different test for the budding actors.

Ryan added: “It is quite daunting, it’s five times bigger than our rehearsal space but we’re coping well and as a cast we’re excited, the huge challenge is part of the excitement.

“Our director and programme leader, Michael Hornsmith, has managed to put such an amazing and different spin on the story. ”

Getting to work in such an historic environment came as a surprise for the students, but the opportunity came along as a result of work they had done for the venue previously.

“We were offered the stage as we’d done a few things for the Tower Ballroom, like the birthday celebrations and the Macmillan Coffee Mornings,” adds Ryan.

Sarah Bartlett, who plays Pauline in the production, said: “The production was chosen for us and it’s really stretching us as a cast.”

West Side Story will play on December 10 and 11 at 7.30pm in the Tower Ballroom.

Tickets are £10/£7.50 and available from the Box Office by calling 0871 2229929.