The 12 finalists of this year’s Stephen Sondheim Society Student Performer of the Year Competition 2014 (SSSSPOTY) will sing their hearts out competing for the title on Sunday 18 May at 3pm at the West End’s Garrick Theatre. The young artists will not only sing a Sondheim number, but at the composer/lyricist’s request, they will also perform 12 new musical songs that are competing 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.”
The audience will have the opportunity to see a rare performance of Sondheim’s song ‘Girls of Summer’ from the 1956 show of the same name – not to mention compositions from Sweeney Todd, Follies, Company, Sunday in the Park With George, Passion and Into the Woods. The 12 finalists, aged 20-24, come from 11 drama schools across the UK – from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, to the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts, via the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama and CPA Studios in Romford Essex.
The renowned Sondheim performer and patron of the Stephen Sondheim Society Julia McKenzie will be presenting the coveted awards; alongside a glittering line up of judges including patrons Maria Friedman and Jenna Russell, who have both won Oliver/Tony Awards for their performances in Sondheim musicals; with musical director Nigel Lilley, director David Lan and writer Edward Seckerson judging the SSSSPOTY; while composer/lyricists Adam Guettel, George Stiles and Anthony Drewe will be judging the Best New Song – the afternoon is hosted by David Bedella.
Past winners of SSSSPOTY are even now making their way in the world of musical theatre and the arts, including last year’s winner Turlough Convery, who was recommended by Julia McKenzie to star in BBC Radio 3’s Sondheim: Inside Out; 2012’s Kris Olsen who is to appear in Oslo’s premiere production of Beauty and the Beast; 2011’s Taron Egerton currently in Sky’s The Smoke; and 2010’s Alex Young is in the West End in the X Factor musical I Can’t Sing!
George Stiles adds: “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 – Gwyneth Herbert (2010) has enjoyed a full production of her musical The A to Z of Mrs P featuring her winning song ‘London Town’; and Tamar Broadbent’s (2013) musical Pierced, with her winning song ‘17 Drafts’, was performed at the New Musical Project. We know this year’s competition will reveal further new musical writing talent.”
The event is produced by Neil Marcus and Samuel Joseph, directed by Chris Hocking with musical direction by Mark Etherington.
The SSSSPOTY finalists are:
Hugo Catton (23) – Guildford School of Acting
Luke Francis (22) – East 15 Acting School, University of Essex
Hayley Hampson (24) – Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts
Stephanie Lysé (23) – Royal Academy of Music
Nicola Martinus-Smith (24) – CPA Studios
Callum McIntyre (23) – Bristol Old Vic Theatre School
Sam O’Hanlon (21) – Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts
Corrine Priest (20) – London School of Musical Theatre
Katie Shearman (21) – ArtsEd
Tyler Smith (22) – Royal Conservatoire of Scotland
Jay Worley (21) – Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama
Monique Young (22) – ArtsEd