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.
As always, the competition is in two parts: the initial heat will be held on Sunday March 15th at the Royal Academy of Music, in private; then 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.
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Invitations have been sent out to over 120 colleges for them to propose singers for the heats. At the heats students will each be asked to sing one song written by Stephen Sondheim. From there, twelve finalists plus two standby performers will be chosen and they will be 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.
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.