Olivier Award winner Clive Rowe will host the 11th annual West End gala for The Stephen Sondheim Society Student Performer of the Year and the 10th anniversary of The Stiles + Drewe Prize next month.
Featuring a special performance by fellow Olivier Award winner and guest judge Janie Dee, the event will be staged at the Noёl Coward Theatre on Sunday 11 June.
Writer and broadcaster Edward Seckerson will return to chair the Student Performer judges and Sondheim favourite Julia McKenzie will once again present the prize.
Under the direction of Chris Hocking and with musical direction by Stephen Ridley, the gala will feature comedy double act Dominic Ferris and Martin Milnes who will be reprising their medley ’33 Sondheim Numbers in 5 Minutes’.
The annual competition, co-produced by The Stephen Sondheim Society and Mercury Musical Developments, features 12 of the top student performers from musical theatre and drama schools across the UK. Each performs a classic song by Stephen Sondheim and a new musical theatre song, written by members of Mercury Musical Developments (MMD). With a first prize of £1,000, the winning student performer will be chosen by a panel that includes Dee, director Rachel Kavanaugh and 2010 winner Alex Young.
The Stiles + Drewe Prize supports and develops new musical theatre writing via its two distinct arms. Recognising an outstanding song from a new musical, the winner/s of Best New Song receives £1,000 to put towards developing their work. Judging the Best New Song entries with Stiles and Drewe will be songwriter Dan Gillespie Sells (The Feeling, Everyone’s Talking About Jamie) and actor Giles Terera (soon to star as Aaron Burr in Hamilton).
Now in its second year, Stiles and Drewe’s Mentorship Award will also be a key part of the gala. Supported by Music Theatre International (Europe), the award offers a new musical and its writers mentorship over a 12-month period, culminating in an industry showcase. The inaugural winner of the Mentorship Award, The Wicker Husband recently had its presentation at The Other Palace.
Commenting on their involvement in the awards Olivier Award-winning duo George Stiles and Anthony Drewe said: “Writing musicals is a labour of love, and can be a long and hard process. It is vital that writers have support at different stages in the development of their work, which is why our prize recognises both an outstanding song and a first full draft of a new musical.
“As in previous years, this gala offers a chance for writers to showcase their work and for us as an industry to highlight and embrace the breadth and depth of the musical theatre writing talent out there. We think new British musical theatre writing is in an inspiring and exciting place.”
The Stephen Sondheim Society chairman Craig Glenday said today: “This annual event has become a highlight in the musical theatre calendar, showcasing the very best students from the UK’s top drama and musical theatre schools. These talented young men and women are the stars of the future, and we’re excited to give them this opportunity to perform on a West End stage – most of them for the first time.
“Sondheim himself talks about teaching as a sacred profession, and The Stephen Sondheim Society is committed to supporting and encouraging students in all aspects of musical theatre. Good luck to all 12!”
The executive director of MMD Victoria Saxton said: “There are precious few opportunities in the UK to champion and nurture new musical theatre writing. We have worked closely with Stiles and Drewe over the past ten years to produce this annual event to ensure that new work can be seen and heard.
“The gala is a fabulous showcase opportunity for 12 MMD writers. This year we received over 140 applications for the Best New Song prize. There is talent out there – it just needs a platform.
“The Best New Song winners from 2015, Richy Hughes and Joseph Finlay, are now receiving a full production of the show from which their winning song featured. Showcasing events make sure new work is seen by the right people. We need initiatives like The Stiles + Drewe Prize to ensure the UK remains a source of excellent new musical theatre.”
The full list of the 12 Best New Song finalists:
- Chris Ash and Carl Miller (‘Underneath’)
- Jim Barne and Kit Buchan (‘What’ll It Be?’)
- Chris Dickins and Tom Wright (‘My Island’)
- Matt Finch and Melanie Lawman (‘Filament’)
- Marc Folan and Carl Miller (‘I’m A Dunce’)
- Ben Glasstone (‘Work to Do’)
- Tom Lees and Claire Rivers (‘Gerry and Me’)
- Claire McKenzie and Scott Gilmour (‘The Matchmaker’)
- Graham Mercer (‘My Favourite Guy’)
- Youn Young Park and Susannah Pearse (‘Doesn’t Mean He’ll Love Me’)
- Tom Slade (‘Apology to a Child’)
- Benjamin Till (‘Brass’)