CAST and crew of next week’s production of West Side Story at Eden Court have been given a morale boosting good luck message from show lyricist Stephen Sondheim.
Sondheim, one of the most revered figures in the history of musical theatre with a record eight Tony Awards to his credit, is the only surviving member of the core creative team that brought West Side Story to Broadway in 1957.
Writing to local theatre company Starlight Musical Theatre, who are staging the show, Sondheim said: "Please tell your cast: thank you for doing West Side Story. Above all, have a good time. If you do, the audience will too. Good luck."
Sondheim’s reply came in response to a letter from opera singer Moira Harris, whose husband Steve Jones is musical director on the Inverness production.
"I don’t think she expected to hear anything more, but it was terrific that we have had this support from him," Jones said.
"The message itself is great, isn’t it? Asking us to have fun, because then the audience will too."
This is Jones’s first project with Starlight, although he was previously musical director for Inverness Opera Company’s production of Titanic: The Musical.
He will take charge of a band of some 21 musicians, the largest orchestra of any Starlight show to date, to bring Leonard Bernstein’s memorable jazz influenced score to life.
"It’s a very rhythmic and complicated score and very syncopated and accented as Bernstein tries to convey the grittiness and danger of the New York streets, so it is a challenge," he said.
The show finds him reunited with some of the local singers and actors he worked with on Titanic, but Jones is also working with a number of cast members who are new to musical theatre.
"Some people haven’t been on stage before and some haven’t sung since they performed at school," he said.
"But they are singing well and getting into the characters well and have really come into their own. Starlight was set up to encourage new talent, so that’s really nice to see."
• West Side Story is at The Empire Theatre, Eden Court, Inverness, from Wednesday 20th to Saturday 23rd August.