When West Side Story comes to Woking there will be two members of the audience who will be re-living the time they saw the original production at Manchester Opera House in 1958!
Clive Thompson was a student at the time and managed to get seats for the Manchester preview production before the show went to London. The evening had an added romantic element that wasn’t in the show – it was a first date for Clive and the young lady, Joan, who was later to become his wife.
Said Clive: “'Before West Side Story opened at the Manchester Opera House, the local press was full of fears that the opening would be delayed because the actors had sustained injuries in rehearsal. With experience of previous musicals we were sceptical that this was only 'hype'!
“And then the curtain went up, and Jerome Robins' dance routines 'exploded' on to the stage. There will never be such an electric combination of Robins' choreography, Bernstein's music and Sondheim's lyrics - and of course Shakespeare's story upon which it is based.
“Just over 30 years later we met composer Leonard Bernstein at a post-concert reception after an LSO (London Symphony Orchestra) concert at the Barbican. Even in his late 70's, he carried his rostrum dynamism into the reception, and to get him to autograph his biography I had to fight my way through the gorgeous young women surrounding him.
“Joan and I are very much looking forward to seeing a repeat of the original production at Woking.
In 1958, it was the first time I took Joan on a 'date' and the tickets cost me, as a student, just 5 shillings each, [25p]'
Clive Thompson CBE is the out-going Chairman of the Ashford and St. Peter’s Hospitals NHS Trust. His term of office ends on 30 September.