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Reimagined West Side Story to form centre of Royal Exchange’s new season

Sarah Frankcom, who will direct West Side Story.
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West Side Story is to be reimagined at the Royal Exchange in Manchester, in a production the venue claims will be the first professional UK staging to feature new choreography.

Royal Exchange artistic director Sarah Frankcom is helming the show, which will be choreographed by Aletta Collins. It forms part of a new season of work that also includes Tanika Gupta’s adaptation of Hobson’s Choice, and a new play by Lauren Mooney and James Yeatman about the Luddite uprising.

West Side Story will be a brand new version of the Broadway musical, written by Leonard Bernstein and originally choreographed by Jerome Robbins. It runs from April next year, with Frankcom saying the show would “reimagine this iconic work of art for our unique in-the-round space”.

She added: ”We’ll reinterpret it for new audiences in our city at this moment in time.”

Collins’ credits include Sweet Charity at the Royal Exchange, and Bend It Like Beckham in the West End.

The spring and summer season opens in March with the previously announced Barber Shop Chronicles, which begins a UK tour at the venue.

It will be followed by West Side Story, with Gupta’s Hobson’s Choice, directed by Pooja Ghai, running from May 31 to July 6. The theatre said Gupta had “reimagined” her 2003 adaptation for the season.

Yeatman and Mooney’s There Is a Light That Never Goes Out: Scenes from the Luddite Rebellion ends the season.

The play, which Yeatman also directs, addresses “contemporary misconceptions about the Luddite uprising” and asks audiences to “think again about the real cost of progress, then and now”.

Frankcom said: “As we strive to make our city bigger, brighter and streamlined for the future we often forget the hidden history that lies beneath its pavements. Yet it’s these stories of a city’s sense of community and its people, of their hopes and struggles that can reveal a city’s heart. This season we challenge ourselves, and the artists we are working with to rediscover these stories and reflect the complex nature of the global city.”

Season at a glance

Barber Shop Chronicles by Inua Ellams
Directed by Bijan Sheibani
March 7 to 23, press night on March 11

West Side Story by Arthur Laurents, Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim
Directed by Sarah Frankcom
April 6 to May 25, press night April 11

Hobson’s Choice by Harold Brighouse, adapted by Tanika Gupta
Directed by Pooja Ghai
May 31 to July 6, press night June 5

There Is a Light that Never Goes Out: Scenes from the Luddite Rebellion, by James Yeatman and Lauren Mooney
Directed by James Yeatman
July 25 to August 10, press night July 29


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