Stagestruck kids' premiere passions

More than 160 budding stage stars descended on the Sunderland Empire this week as part of the venue's summer school project.

After battling it out for a place in reality show-style auditions in May, the chosen youngsters are now working alongside a professional director, musical director, choreographer and backstage crew to perfect their performance of West Side Story.

The group have been brushing up on their singing, dancing and acting skills in time for next week's premiere.

Promising stars taking to the stage include Sunderland's Tom Morris, 23, and Mica Lomax, 15.

Now in its third year, Stage Experience is a two-week, not-for-profit theatre summer school, which aims to give nine to 25-year-olds from across the region the chance to perform in a professionally produced musical.

Set in New York's Manhattan, West Side Story is an update of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, exploring the rivalry between two teenage gangs, the Jets and the Sharks.

You can see West Side Story at the Sunderland Empire from Thursday to Saturday, August 7 to 9. Tickets cost 7.50 to 13.50. Phone 0844 847 2499 or log on to