Twelve student finalists from top drama schools across the UK will compete for the title of this year’s Stephen Sondheim Society Student Performer of the Year (SSSSPOTY), on Sunday 17 May at 3pm at the Garrick Theatre in London’s West End. Each student will sing a song by Stephen Sondheim and, at his personal request, they will also each sing a new musical theatre song, written by members of Mercury Musical Developments and shortlisted for the Stiles & Drewe Best New Song Prize.
Stephen Sondheim says: “What’s significant about this competition is that it allows students to demonstrate their skills in storytelling through song. Moreover, it allows the public to hear new writing voices as well as new singing ones. Good luck to the singers, and remember to honour the songwriters. Good luck to the songwriters, and remember to honour the singers.”
This will also be a rare opportunity to see Elaine Paige perform a new version of ‘I’m Still Here‘ from Follies, specially adapted for her by Stiles and Drewe, with the permission of Stephen Sondheim. The afternoon is hosted by Michael Xavier who will also perform. There will also be a performance by 2014 SSSSPOTY winner Corinne Priest.
The 12 student finalists aged 18-24 will perform songs from: Passion, Company, Sweeney Todd, Follies, Merrily We Roll Along, Sunday in the Park With George and Into the Woods.
The renowned Sondheim interpreter and patron of the Stephen Sondheim Society, Julia McKenzie will be presenting the award, alongside a glittering line up of judges including Elaine Paige, Laura Pitt-Pulford, director Jamie Lloyd, conductor and BBC Proms favourite John Wilson and writer and broadcaster Edward Seckerson. Composers and lyricists George Stiles and Anthony Drewe, and Pippa Cleary and Jake Brunger (writers of The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole at Curve Leicester) will be judging the Best New Song Prize.
Past winners of SSSSPOTY are now making their way in the profession. Last year’s winner Corinne Priest, recently appeared in Howard Goodall’s Girlfriends at the Union Theatre. The previous year’s winner, Turlough Convery, was recommended by Julia McKenzie to star in BBC Radio 3’s Sondheim: Inside Out and 2012’s Kris Olsen starred in Oslo’s premiere production of Beauty and the Beast. 2011’s Taron Egerton appeared in Sky’s The Smoke and Kingsman: The Secret Service (alongside Colin Firth, Mark Strong and Samuel L. Jackson) and 2010’s Alex Young was in I Can’t Sing! –The X Factor Musical at the London Palladium.
George Stiles says: We are delighted with the standard of songs that continue to be submitted for the Stiles & Drewe Best Song Prize through Mercury Musical Developments (MMD). We are even more delighted to see past winners’ musicals go on to further development – Tamar Broadbent (2014) has recently taken her one–woman show All By My Selfie to the Adelaide Fringe in Australia and her musical Pierced, which includes her 2013 runner-up song ‘17 Drafts’, was performed at the New Musical Project.
“Tim Sutton (2013) is currently musical director and leads the on-stage band in Memphis the Musical. Gwyneth Herbert (2010) has enjoyed a full production of her musical The A to Z of Mrs P at Southwark Playhouse featuring her winning song ‘London Town’ and is working on a new project with her writing partner on that show, Diane Samuels. We know this year’s competition will reveal further new musical writing talent.”
The prestige and impact of these awards continues to grow each year. The competition is now in its ninth year with a top prize of £1,000 for both the Student Performer and the writer of the Best New Song. The student runner-up will also receive a prize of £500. The event is produced by Martin Jackson and Victoria Saxton for Mercury Musical Developments and Craig Glenday for The Stephen Sondheim Society.
The Student Performer prize is sponsored by Michael Darling and The Stiles & Drewe Best New Song Prize is co-sponsored by Stiles and Drewe and R & H Theatricals Europe.
The 12 finalists are:
Ewan Black (21), Bristol Old Vic Theatre School
Amy Bridges (21), Musical Theatre Academy
Erin Doherty(22), Bristol Old Vic Theatre School
Luke Farrugia (23), Royal Central School of Speech & Drama
Corey Jones (24), South Gloucestershire & Stroud College
Grant McConvey (22), Guildford School of Acting
Emily Onsloe (21), Guildhall School of Music & Drama
Nick Shirm (23), Guildhall School of Music & Drama
Natalie Thorn (20), Performance Preparation Academy
Charlotte Vaughan (22), Royal Academy of Music
Leah Barbara West (21), Arts Educational Schools
Lydia White (18), West End Masterclass