Venue: The Venue, Leicester Square
Date: 13 May
MD: Chris Mundy
Director: Peter Huntley
Host: Maria Friedman
Winner: Carl Au (Arts Ed, London)
The Student Performer of the Year Finalists (in order of performance)
Sophia Behn (Royal Academy of Music)
Sondheim: "Moments in the Woods" (Into the Woods)
BNS: "Something in the Air" by Mel Atkey
Carl Au (winner) (Arts Ed, London)
Sondheim: "Franklin Shepard, Inc." (Merrily We Roll Along)
BNS: "Smallville Colorado" by Richard John and Julian Woolford
Dawn Sievewright (Guildford School of Acting)
Sondheim: "Like it Was" (Merrily We Roll Along)
BNS: "A Moment Like This" by Ian Hammond Brown
Dan Francis (Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts)
Sondheim: "Live Alone and Like It" (Dick Tracy)
BNS: "Nowhere a Picture of Me" by Conor Mitchell
Keith Anthony Higham (Royal Academy of Music)
Sondheim: "Epiphany" (Sweeney Todd)
BNS: "The Recurring Dream" by Laurence Mark Wythe
Helen Bradbury (LAMDA)
Sondheim: "Silly People" (cut from A Little Night Music)
BNS: "Sorry Makes It All Alright" by Shrubshall and Free
Tammy Joelle Coffin (Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama)
Sondheim: "I Remember" (Evening Primrose)
BNS: "No More Tears" by Cathy Shostak and Anton Agalbato
Robert Holt (Guildford School of Acting)
Sondheim: "Take me to the World" (Evening Primrose)
BNS: "When I Was Young" by John Farndon
Hayley Gallivan (Arts Ed, London)
Sondheim: "There Won’t be Trumpets" (Anyone Can Whistle)
BNS: "All Your Life" by Jenny Giering land Beth Blatt
Evan C. Grosshans (Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama)
Sondheim: "In Praise of Women" (A Little Night Music)
BNS: "Beautiful" by Dominic Haslam and Jennifer Toksvig
Student Performer of the Year: Edward Seckerson (Chair), Julia McKenzie, Philip Quast
The Finals – A Winner’s View by Carl Au
When I found out that I had been selected to represent Arts Educational School in The Stephen Sondheim Society Student Performer of the Year competition, I was so thrilled and enthusiastic about the whole event. It was such an opportunity and a real privilege to be a part of such an exciting new project with Philip Quast, Edward Seckerson and Julia McKenzie as the judging panel, and Maria Friedman hosting the event. Personally for me, just to perform for these respected artistes whom I admire greatly, was an achievement in itself.
As I was already a huge fan of Stephen Sondheim, and having an extreme passion for his works, I was able to choose quite confidently a piece that would reflect my personality and demonstrate my talents. What I find so inspirational in Stephen Sondheim’s songs and lyrics is the complete sense of truth which runs throughout all his works. He has a remarkable way of combining absolute truth with a constant underlining of subtext which, for an actor, is fantastic to approach and explore.
As I have always been an actor who likes a challenge and will find ways of pushing myself to the limit, I felt it necessary to choose one of Sondheim’s legendary tour-de-force pitter patter songs for which he is most famous. "Franklin Shepard, Inc." from one of Sondheim’s traditional scores, Merrily We Roll Along, gave me such discovery and allowed me this. As well as choosing a Sondheim song we were given the opportunity to work with new material on behalf of Mercury Musical Developments, which was really encouraging. I chose to perform "Smallville Colorado" from A Comrade Rockstar by new composers Richard John and Julian Woolford, which was in contrast to the other piece I had chosen.
The day of the event at The Venue in Leicester Square was so well organised by the Stephen Sondheim Society and I cannot possibly thank them enough for their kindness, support and all the hard work that went in to it. They provided a relaxed and comfortable atmosphere and had carefully structured the proceedings of the day. And without their efforts and hard work I would not have achieved or got as much from the experience as I did.
The contestants from the other training colleges were all of a very high standard and together we were able to put on an extraordinary and exciting afternoon of entertainment – allowing all of the students who took part to showcase their talents.
I could not believe it when my name was announced as the Winner of The Stephen Sondheim Student Performer of the Year. Even now, I replay Julia McKenzie announcing my name and still get emotional. I was so overwhelmed with the response from the audience and the feedback from the judges. I learnt so much from observing the other contestants and by listening to the excellent advice from the panel and feel I have progressed as a performer. Having my family and friends there to support me was so positive and comforting, and I was really proud of myself for what I had achieved. I cannot fully express how much the whole experience meant to me, but I am so grateful for the opportunity to showcase my talents and I thank everyone who helped to create the event. Also, I would like to say a huge thank you to Arts Ed for all of their hard work and training; specifically Mark Dorrell, Timothy Evans, and Chris Hocking.
Since the competition, I've had a few newspapers approach me wanting to write articles about my experience, which as I am in my final year of training in Musical Theatre at Arts Educational School is a great help. I have had several offers from workshops of new musicals and was also recently invited to be a part of the Barbara Cook and Friends charity gala show celebrating her 80th Birthday, where I played opposite the exceptional Daniel Evans, Graham Bickley, and Sally Ann Triplett which was a remarkable experience. And last but not least, just to be able to have this personal achievement of mine on my CV is fantastic!
The whole experience of The Stephen Sondheim Society Student Performer of the Year is one that I will never forget and will hold dear to my heart.