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60 Years of School Musicals

Cranleigh stages West Side Story 60 years after being first school ever to do so

In 1964, Cranleigh drama made the national press when it staged West Side Story, a radical move reflecting the changing times and the first amateur production of it in the world. Now the School is celebrating 60 years of musical theatre with another run of shows.

From the first notes to the final breath, West Side Story is one of the most memorable musicals and greatest love stories of all time. Arthur Laurents' book remains as powerful, poignant and timely as ever. Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet is transported to New York City as two young, idealistic lovers find themselves caught between warring street gangs, the "American" Jets and the Puerto Rican Sharks. Their struggle to survive in a world of hate, violence and prejudice is one of the most innovative, heart-wrenching and relevant musical dramas of our time.

Cranleigh's Head, Martin Reader said: "I have always wanted to see West Side Story performed by a school but no-one has ever been brave enough. Just as our school took the risk 60 years ago, I'm proud that our Music and Drama departments took on the challenge to ensure that Cranleigh continues to be a school that will take a risk. Education should push and challenge boundaries. It has to tackle relevant issues."

The performance will mark the last musical under his headship as he retires in the summer after a decade at Cranleigh which has prioritised the performing arts.

In a further celebration, pupils from Cranleigh's flagship International School in Abu Dhabi will join the cast as dancers, rehearsing separately over two terms and joining rehearsals two weeks before. It's a fitting collaboration to mark 10 years since the Cranleigh Abu Dhabi first opened its doors, and to christen Cranleigh's brand new Dance studios which open this term.

Over the past 60 years Cranleigh has staged dozens of musicals, including Carmen, Oliver, Cabaret, Guys & Dolls, Les Miserables (twice), Into the Woods, Chicago, We Will Rock You and Little Shop of Horrors. It's a much loved school tradition and one that is here to stay. 

March 2024