Olivier Award-winning writing duo George Stiles and Anthony Drewe are to offer an annual award to help support and develop new musical theatre writing in the UK. For its first three years, the award will be fully funded by the world’s leading theatrical licensing agency Music Theatre International (MTI), to coincide with the opening of its European office in London, Music Theatre International (Europe).
Stiles and Drewe – who will premiere three new shows in 2016 – are best known for their scores for Honk!, Betty Blue Eyes and the new music and lyrics for the Disney/Cameron Mackintosh production of Mary Poppins which is currently touring the UK.
The inaugural MTI Stiles + Drewe Mentorship Award offers writers a unique level of mentorship and support to help develop a new musical, as well as substantially raising the recipient’s profile in the industry. Stiles and Drewe won the first Vivian Ellis Prize in 1985 for their musical Just So, which introduced them to the major heavyweights of the musical theatre world and made an enormous impact at the beginning of their careers. The MTI Stiles + Drewe Mentorship Award aims to give a similar kick-start to the next generation of musical theatre writing talent.
Building on the success of the The Stiles & Drewe Best New Song Prize – now in its ninth year – the new Mentorship Award addresses the need for a writer-led, sustained development programme. Stiles and Drewe and a panel of multi-disciplinary industry judges will select one new musical and its writers to receive mentorship over a 12-month period. The writers will benefit from monthly writers’ labs, a one-week writing retreat, and two panel-led progress labs. The year’s mentorship will culminate in an industry showcase.
Stiles and Drewe will continue to offer their Best New Song Prize to run alongside the new Mentorship Award. This Prize recognises an outstanding song from a new musical and is offered in conjunction with the Stephen Sondheim Society Student Performer of the Year Competition at an annual West End gala, produced by Mercury Musical Developments. The winner receives a prize of £1,000 to put towards developing their work. Previous judges have included Matthew Scott, head of music at the National Theatre; Tony Award-winning orchestrator Sarah Travis; Broadway composer Andrew Lippa; head of Josef Weinberger publishing and head of MTI Europe Seán Gray and director Jeremy Sams.
Stiles and Drewe said: “Writing a good musical is really hard. We were lucky enough to receive advice and support from some of the best in the industry, including Cameron, during the early years of our careers. Together with MMD, we’ve long been championing new writers in the UK and we hope this new Mentorship Award will really make a difference to the quality of musical theatre writing in the UK.”
Cameron Mackintosh, MTI’s majority owner, added: “As musicals continue to grow in popularity across the globe, MTI is expanding too with new offices in London and Melbourne. Supporting this innovative award reinforces my commitment both to the responsible expansion of all the work of our brilliant team at MTI and the development of new musical writing in the UK. Personally, the timing of this welcome initiative couldn’t be better as it coincides with my working again with George and Anthony and book writer Julian Fellowes on a completely new version of Half a Sixpence, based on the HG Wells novel Kipps at Chichester this summer.
“I have worked with George and Anthony for over 30 years having produced their first musical Just So, so I can’t think of any writing collaboration better versed in the challenges of a career in the musical theatre or have more knowledge of the highs and lows that inevitably come with writing any new musical.
“Often living on a shoe-string, surviving disappointments as they learn their craft, while keeping their passion to write what they truly believe in is what marks George and Anthony out as one of the few truly original musical writing teams in the UK. They are the ideal pair to mentor the next generation of musical writers with their hard-earned wisdom and knowledge of the endless work and joy involved in the creation of this rare but much loved art.”
MTI Europe’s managing director Seán Gray added: “Nurturing new work and supporting writers is essential if musical theatre is to continue flourishing. We have represented Stiles and Drewe’s musicals for almost 20 years and it is wonderful that they plan to share their experience and expertise with emerging writers in this way. We’re really looking forward to seeing the work that emerges from this award.”
Mercury Musical Developments will administrate the Mentorship Award in addition to the Best New Song Prize via a single submission process. MMD is a membership organisation that nurtures new musical writing in the UK. Stiles and Drewe are founding board members.
Executive director of MMD Victoria Saxton said: “Part of MMD’s mission is to ensure that the UK continues to be the home of excellent and innovative musical. We’re delighted to be working with Stiles and Drewe on their new Mentorship Award as there is currently no such scheme in the UK that provides this type of support for emerging writers.”
* Readers may also be interested in:
The Wind in the Willows musical set for world premiere in October 2016 – News
Interview – George Stiles and Anthony Drewe on being partners in rhyme