West Side Story – Behind the Scenes

We meet the cast behind X-Entricity’s West Side Story and speak to some of the old cast from The Courtyard’s production 20 years ago, which starred an unknown James McAvoy!

Emily Samways – Maria

Emily trained at the MTA in London and performed in several touring shows. Credits include Rapunzel (Forest of Enchantment, Disneyland Paris), Beauty (Beauty and the Beast), Singer/Dancer (Costa Fortuna).

This is her first show with X-entricity and she is honoured to be performing with such a fabulous cast.

She says “I am loving this chance to play Maria. She is different from other romantic leads, in that even with her innocence, she’s feisty and opinionated. She is full of passion and youthful excitement. It’s been great fun to explore all the different sides to Maria’s character as well as her sweet and loving relationship with Tony, and her close but emotional relationship with Anita”.

Emily - West Side Story

Lucas Abbott – Tony

Lucas has been in several X-Entricity shows in the past, including Les Miserables, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, Beauty and the Beast and The Wedding Singer. This is actually Lucas’s second time playing Tony in West Side Story, as he also did it while at university.

He says, “What I love about Tony is, he’s got this calmness about him that’s completely at odds with the frantic energy of the gangs. His relationship with Maria is so sweet and gentle, it really makes the violence in the show that much more upsetting. I’m enjoying the chance to take on the role again with more experience under my belt and seeing how differently I play it this time.”

Lucas - West Side Story

Stephanie Millington – Anita

Stephanie is 18 and currently in her second year of studying performing arts at Hereford Sixth Form College. This is her second show with X-Entricity, having played Sarah Brown in their production of ‘Guys and Dolls’ in October 2018. She dances with both Three Counties and Nicola’s School of Dance outside college and has performed in various shows with both.

She says “Anita is a fiercely passionate but loyal character who contrasts hugely with anything Steph has played before – she especially enjoys the more challenging dance aspects as well as the huge journey and changes the character goes through as her part in the story unfolds.”

Matthew Lawrence – Riff

Matthew has been a member of X-Entricity for 4 years, performing in shows such as Guys and Dolls, Legally Blonde, Peter Pan, Grease and Priscilla Queen of the Desert.

He says “Riff is without question, the most physically demanding role I’ve portrayed, due to West Side Story’s intense musical numbers and fight scenes. However, it is also the most fun. When I was approaching this role, I knew It was very important for me to show Riff’s enthusiastic personality when leading the Jets, in comparison to his intimidating, quick tempered manner towards the Sharks.
I believe as the show progresses and the tension rises, Riff faces an internal battle to stop his hatred from clouding his better judgment. This idea of inner turmoil is vital to my interpretation and the show as it’s Riff’s fiery temper and passion that pushes him to rumble with Bernardo.”

Matthew - West Side Story


Richard Thomas – Officer Krupke in the first West Side Story production at The Courtyard.

Richard has been involved in numerous productions at The Courtyard both as a performer and a director since the opening production of West Side Story.

He says “Wow! West Side Story was 20 years ago but it feels like yesterday. Being part of such an exciting and energetic production with many of my dearest friends when we were so young was such an amazing experience. It was exciting to add modern touches to the music and the sell-out audiences couldn’t get enough. A powerful once in a lifetime experience indeed.”

Richard has since performed in a further two productions of West Side Story as he says it is such a beautiful show.

West Side Story - Chucky (glasses), Tim Evans (hat)


Tim Evans –  A-Rab in the original Courtyard production of West Side Story

He says: “Twenty years ago the brilliant production of West Side Story on The Courtyard’s stage showed what could be achieved in Herefordshire with all the creative talent that is produced here. It also gave me and many other young actors, including an unknown James McAvoy the opportunity to develop our skills at the start of our careers. I know from running Powerhouse here in Herefordshire that there’s an exciting new generation of performers and and I hope they have as much fun as we did with this show!”

Tim Evans & James McAvoy in The Courtyard's 1999 production of Wet Side Story