Venue: Savoy Theatre
Date: 10 June
MD: Mark Etherington
Host: Tracie Bennett
Opening number: "Make the Most of Your Music" (written for the original London production of Follies)
Guest performers: Di Botcher, Oscar Conlon-Morrey (with Peter Polycarpou) and Izuka Hoyle
Winner: Alex Cardall (Arts Ed)
Runner-up: James Stirling (Mountview)
Third place: Shelby Flannery (LAMDA)
Best New Song: "You and Me" by Adam Wachter (sung by Alex Cardall)
Mentorship Prize: The Season by Jim Barne and Kit Buchan
Now in its 12th year, The Stephen Sondheim Society Student Performer of the Year and Stiles + Drewe Prize goes from strength to strength, and this time presented Edward Seckerson and his judging panel with the most challenging line-up of talent yet seen in this competition.
Arts Ed graduate Alex Cardall saw off the stiff competition to claim the first prize of £1,000, thanks to his remarkable rendition of the Follies favourite "Buddy's Blues" – a tour de force of a song that won the title for Norwegian finalist Kris Olsen back in 2012.
In second place was Mountview's James Stirling, who sang "Hello, Little Girl" from Into The Woods, and third – an impromptu prize created on the spot at the insistence of Society Patron Julia McKenzie – was LAMDA's Shelby Flannery for her heartbreaking "I Wish I Could Forget You" from Passion.
See below some of the photos from the Final, taken by David Ovenden, and then check out the selfies left by some of the students during the heats day at the Bishopsgate Institute back in March.
Winner of the Best New Song prize was Adam Wachter for "You and Me" (which was also sung by Alex Cardall), while the MTI Stiles + Drewe Mentorship Prize went to Jim Barne and Kit Buchan for theie new musical The Season.
The Gala Final was presented by Follies star Tracie Bennett and featured a guest performance from Follies co-star Di Botcher, who reprised her showstopping "Broadway Baby". Directing proceedings was Chris Hocking, and on the keyboard throughout was the tireless Mark Etherington.
Student Performer of the Year: Edward Seckerson (Chair), Rebecca Trehearn, Rebecca Caine, David Benedict & Stephen Ridley
Stiles+Drewe Prize for Best New Song: Sharon D. Clarke, Susie McKenna, George Stiles & Anthony Drewe
The MTI Stiles+Drewe Mentorship Award: James Dacre, Amelia Ferrand-Rook,
Grant Olding, George Stiles & Anthony Drewe
The Student Performer of the Year Finalists (in order of performance)
Will Carey has just graduated from the Guildford School of Acting’s BA (Hons) Musical Theatre course. While training, his credits include, David Shayne (Bullets Over Broadway), Skimbleshanks (Cats), Freddy Eynsford-Hill (My Fair Lady) and Trebonius (Julius Caesar). Will is also a member of the National Youth Music Theatre, having played Rob Roy McGregor (The Ragged Child) as part of the 2014 International Youth Arts Festival. Having admired Sondheim’s work for many years, Will is thrilled to be a finalist in the SSSSPOTY competition this year!
Sondheim: "Giants in the Sky" (Into The Woods)
BNS: “Everything Will Be Alright” by China Doll, Leah Fogo, Roxanne Lamendola and Scott Stait
Alex Cardall (winner) is originally from the West Midlands. He started singing and acting at the age of six and soon became very passionate about pursuing a career in the arts. He studied Performing Arts at the Birmingham Ormiston Academy (BOA) and is about to graduate The Arts Educational Schools, London. Some of his credits while training include Judge Turpin in Sweeney Todd and David Shayne in Bullets Over Broadway. Alex is also a enthusiastic drummer and has his own Jazz Trio that plays in local venues around West London. Alex is thrilled to be a part of SSSSPOTY and dedicates today’s performance to his Dad.
Sondheim: "Buddy's Blues" (Follies)
BNS: “You And Me” by Adam Wachter (winner)
Emily Beresford is 21 years old and is from Wallasey, Wirral. She is currently graduating from her Musical Theatre Degree course at The Hammond in Chester. Some of her recent credits while training include Ellen in Miss Saigon, Maggie in A Chorus Line and multiple roles in The Laramie Project. Emily is thrilled to be able to represent The Hammond in this year’s finals.
Sondheim: "Don't Laugh (Hot Spots, music by Mary Rodgers
and Stephen Sondheim; lyrics by Sondheim and Martin Charnin)
BNS: “Better Kind Of Me” by Rachel Bellman and Josh Bird
Sabi Perez will be graduating from RADA in July of this year. During her time at the school, she has taken part in a number of different and diverse productions, playing Sara Jane Moore in Assassins, Isabella in Women Beware Women and Phyllis in Lucy Caldwell’s Leaves. Before RADA, Sabi trained at the BRIT School and has played the title roles in Sweet Charity and The Drowsy Chaperone, the latter at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
Sondheim: “Could I Leave You?” (Follies)
BNS: “Stars (Girl Like Me)” by Sara Eker and Giles Fernando
James Stirling (runner up) is from Bolton and joined the National Youth Music Theatre in 2013, playing Dad in Whistle Down the Wind (2013) and John Giles in The Ragged Child (2014). He then studied on the Foundation course at Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts in 2015 before later completing the three-year degree course there. Experience in training includes Joseph Poorgrass/Ensemble in Far From the Madding Crowd, Ali Hakim in Oklahoma!, Albert/Ensemble in The Secret Garden, Lawrence Jameson in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and King Charles II in Nell Gywnn. He also sang in 2017’s ITV Gala at the London Palladium and Magic Radio’s Magic at the Musicals concert. He quotes Sweeney Todd and Into The Woods as his favourite musicals.
Sondheim: "Hello, Little Girl" (Into The Woods)
BNS: “If I Had Wings” by Jim Barne and Kit Buchan
Dónal Finn is from Dromina Village in County Cork of Ireland, and is the winner of the Overstall Charitable Trust Scholarship to LAMDA. His credits in training include The Children’s Hour, Measure for Measure, Cabaret and We Are Three Sisters. Previous musical theatre credits include Singin’ In The Rain and Sweeney Todd at the Cork Opera House. Dónal is delighted to be taking part in the SSSSPOTY competition, and would like to thank his family and his friends for their generous support.
Sondheim: “Flag Song” (Assassins)
BNS: “Famous” by Bomi Lee and Jason Young
Bonnie Badoo is from Gloucester and spent three years studying drama at Liverpool John Moores University. After a year out travelling South America she attended the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School and will be graduating this year.
Sondheim: “Ladies Who Lunch” (Company)
BNS: “Down The Stairs” by Adam Wachter
Shelby Flannery (third place) grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where she performed in community and professional theatre since a young age. She then studied acting at Pace University in New York City, eventually traveling to London to train in classical drama at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts, where she was shown how to unlock and free her voice.
Sondheim: “I Wish I Could Forget You” (Passion)
BNS: “Down The Stairs” by Adam Wachter
Elliott Wooster is in his final year at Royal Central School of Speech and Drama on the Acting (Musical Theatre) course. This year, he was part of the development of Bryony Lavery’s new play #DR@CULA playing Tosh, and most recently played Paul in A Chorus Line. Elliott’s favourite Sondheim musical is Merrily We Roll Along (which he saw four times when it played at Theatr Clwyd near his home town in Wales!), with Sunday in the Park with George coming in a very close second!
Sondheim: “Love, I Hear” (A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum)
BNS: “Somewhere In Between” by Nick Butcher
Pedro Leandro was born in Belgium to a Spanish mother and a Portuguese father. He grew up singing in a choir and acting in the school plays but it was only while studying Philosophy at the University of Edinburgh that he realised that he wanted to pursue acting professionally. He has spent the last two years learning everything he can about the craft at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. It was there that his singing teacher Pam Rudge infected him with a love of Stephen Sondheim’s music. He has since been listening to cast recordings of his musicals to an almost obsessive degree.
Sondheim: “Being Alive” (Company)
BNS: “Set The Alarm For Six” by Bella Barlow and A. C. Smith
Amara Okereke is from Leeds in Yorkshire and is graduating this year from The Arts Educational Schools London. Her credits include Cassie in the original west end cast of 13 The Musical, Maria in The National Youth Music Theatre’s West Side Story and Emily Tallentire in The Hired Man, also with NYMT. She is a long time Sondheim fan and is thrilled to be in the finals.
Sondheim: “Not a Day Goes By” (Merrily We Roll Along)
BNS: “Shone With The Sun” by Benjamin Till, Nathan Taylor and Sir Arnold Wesker
Thomas Grant is a graduate of the 2017/18 Royal Academy Of Music MA Musical Theatre course, having previously studied at for a BSc in Geography and Spanish at the University of Bristol. He is also a former member of the National Youth Theatre. Stage experience includes Archie Rowan in Exiles (National Theatre), Emcee in Cabaret (Bierkeller Theatre), Chip Tolentino in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (Jocular Theatre, Barcelona), Will Parry in His Dark Materials (Bristol University), Ensemble/Christian cover in Moulin Rouge (Secret Cinema) and Jean Valjean in This is the Hour: Claude Michel-Schönberg Honorary Gala.
Sondheim: “Franklin Shepard, Inc.” (Merrily We Roll Along)
BNS: “As Long As I Have Music” by Rob Eyles and Robert Gould