Erin Doherty, a 22-year-old from Crawley, Sussex, who is in her final term at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School after training for a year at the Guildford School of Acting, took the £1,000 top prize with ‘Broadway Baby’ and Darren Clark’s new-song entry ‘The Angel at the top of the tree’.
ArtsEd’s Leah West who performed two songs, ‘I Read’ from Passion and the ‘Love Me’, from a new musical by Laura Kaye Thomson won the second prize, a cheque for £500, while highly commended was the GSA’s Grant McConvey, who did a fabulous job with the Best New Song winner ‘Don’t Look Down’, an hilarious take on a divorced vertigo sufferer who foolishly agrees to climb Big Ben for a charity stunt.
Erin Doherty with Julia McKenzie, Elaine Page and the judges
Click on the image above for a PDF of the programme
Erin Doherty and Leah West with Lynne Chapman and the student finalists
Richy Hughes (left) and Joseph Finlay (right) who won the Stiles and Drewe (back) best new song for Don’t Look Down from The Superhero, which was sung by finalist Grant McConvey (centre).
Each of the 12 finalists from nationwide schools of musical theatre had to perform one Sondheim song and one new composition in the Stiles & Drewe competition.
Special guest Elaine Paige, sang ‘I’m Still Here’, from Follies (she played Carlotta on Broadway two years ago) but with new lyrics written by Anthony Drewe to celebrate Paige’s 50-year showbiz career.
The show was compered by Michael Xavier, another star who recently appeared in Assassins at the Menier. But when he put down his script and sang, it was to Into the Woods that he turned, reprising the ‘Agony’ duet with Simon Thomas they did superbly in the 2010 Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre revival.
He chose Into the Woods again for one of two solos, ‘No One is Alone’, the other being ‘They Don’t Make Glass Slippers’ from Stiles and Drewe’s Soho Cinders, a show he also starred in.
Michael Xavier and Elaine Page
Corrine Priest the 2014 SSSSPOTY winner returned to reprise her winning ‘Don’t Laugh’ entry from Hot Spot.
Music critic Edward Seckerson chaired the judging panel once again which included Julia McKenzie, Elaine Paige, Laura Pitt-Pulford, Assassins director Jamie Lloyd and orchestra leader John Wilson, while the Best New Song prize was judged by Stiles and Drewe with Jake Brunger and Pippa Cleary.
This year’s Stephen Sondheim Society Student Performer of the Year Competition (the ninth), known as SSSSPOTY, will take place on the afternoon of Sunday May 17th at the Garrick Theatre .
The Stephen Sondheim Society Student Performer of the Year, now in its ninth year, was created to give musical theatre students a platform to showcase their work before graduation. 12 student finalists from the UK’s leading drama schools compete for the Student Performer prize. Each student sings a song by Stephen Sondheim and a new musical theatre song, written by members of Mercury Musical Developments, an organisation dedicated to the craft of writing book, music and lyrics for musical theatre. The Stiles & Drewe Best New Song Prize for the writer of the winning new song is generously sponsored by Stiles & Drewe and R & H Theatricals Europe. For more information on the event see this page.
As always, the competition is in two parts: the initial heat was held on Sunday March 15th at the Royal Academy of Music, in private; and the competition final will take place at 3pm on Sunday May 17th in front of a panel of judges from the industry and an audience of industry professionals and the public.
Invitations were sent out to over 120 colleges for them to propose singers for the heats. At the heats students were each asked to sing one song written by Stephen Sondheim. From there, twelve finalists have been chosen and they are being asked to prepare and to perform one Sondheim piece and one new song by writers who are members of Mercury Musical Developments, an organisation dedicated to developing the craft of book, music and lyric writing in musical theatre. The successful students will be supplied with the new pieces from which to choose their song. This was Stephen Sondheim’s proviso when granting us permission to run the competition, that new music be equally celebrated.
All finalists will appear on a West End stage, the winning student will receive a prize of £1,000 and a trophy and the runner-up will receive a prize of £250.
The finalists are:
|Leah Barbara West||Arts Education Schools|
|Ewan Black||Bristol Old Vic Theatre School|
|Erin Doherty||Bristol Old Vic Theatre School|
|Grant McConvey||Guildford School of Acting|
|Nick Shirm||Guildhall School of Music & Drama|
|Emily Onsloe||Guildhall School of Music & Drama|
|Natalie Thorn||PPA (Performance Preparation Academy|
|Charlotte Vaughan||Royal Academy of Music|
|Luke Farrugia||Royal Central School of Speech & Drama|
|Corey Jones||South Gloucestershire & Stroud|
|Lydia White||West End Masterclass|
Chaired by Edward Seckerson, the finals’ judging panel will consist of leading industry professionals. This is the ninth year of the event; past hosts and judges have included Maria Friedman, Sally-Anne Triplett, David Babani, Julia McKenzie, Hannah Waddingham, Maureen Lipman, Gareth Valentine, Kim Criswell, Philip Quast, Haydn Gwynne, David Shrubsole, Michael McCabe, David Lan, director Timothy Sheader and Tony-winning MD Sarah Travis; as ever this year there will be a strong industry presence. This year’s judges are still to be confirmed; Julia McKenzie has graciously agreed once again to present the prizes.
We are very proud that all of our past winners have gone on to professional success; for example, our 2009 winner Michael Peavoy has appeared in Billy Elliott; our 2010 winner Alex Young is currently starring in Anything Goes; our 2011 winner, Taron Egerton, is starring in the new film Kingsman: The Secret Service; our 2012 winner Kris Olsen appeared in the film of Les Misérables; our 2013 winner, Turlough Convery was chosen to appear at a special Sondheim Radio 3 concert and has appeared in the TV series My Mad Fat Diary, and our 2014 winner, Corrine Priest, appeared in very well-received Stephen Sondheim Society show God! last summer as part of her prize. It’s always very gratifying when artists cite their entry in their programme biography, stressing how important the experience has been to them.
The following photographs show a few of the students going through their paces in front of the judges.
All photographs copyright David Ovenden