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SSSSPOTY finalists & judges



Announcing the 12 finalists in the 2024 Stephen Sondheim Society Student Performer of the Year


Judges include Jenna Russell, Callum Scott Howells,

Fra Fee, Jak Malone, Alex Parker

Final to be held at the Sondheim Theatre

Sunday 9 June at 3pm

Hosted by Bonnie Langford


The Stephen Sondheim Society Student Performer of the Year competition – affectionately known as SSSSPOTY – was inaugurated in 2007, and in 2024 returns for its 16th year.


The gala final will be held, fittingly, in the West End’s Sondheim Theatre, on the afternoon of Sunday 9 June. Hosting proceedings will be Bonnie Langford, who recently starred in Sondheim’s Old Friends at the

Gielgud Theatre. Bonnie, who played alongside Angela Lansbury in the 1974 revival of Gypsy, also wowed audiences at Hey, Old Friends!, the Sondheim Society’s 85th Birthday Gala for Mr Sondheim at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane.


This year, The Stephen Sondheim Society (a charitable trust founded in 1993) asked for the first round of auditions to be made via video. More than 330 submissions were received, 75 of which qualified for a live, in-person audition with critic and broadcaster Edward Seckerson (Chair of the Judges) and Musical Director Nigel Lilley (‘Follies’, National Theatre; ‘Fun Home’, Young Vic). As a result, 12 finalists were selected, with 2 students held in reserve. The 12 finalists are:


Holly Adams (Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance)

Brooke Bazarian (London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art/LAMDA)

Oliver Halford (Emil Dale Academy)

Harrison Langham (Arts Ed)

Katie Leach (LAMDA)

Madeleine Morgan (Royal Academy of Music)

Rowen Newsome (Brighton Academy)

Tumi Olufawo (Bristol Old Vic Theatre School)

Thomas Oxley (Italia Conti)

Daisy Pearson (Rose Bruford College)

Gavin Rasmussen (LAMDA)

Josh Rosewood (Mountview)



The winner will receive a £1,000 first prize, and the chance to headline their own Sondheim-infused cabaret in London. The runner-up is also awarded £500.


Reserves – Jacob Dolan Holmes and Noah Thallon (both Mountview).


The competition has an impressive track record for identifying young talent. Finalists have included Cynthia Erivo, Oscar Conlon-Morrey and Shaq Taylor, and winners include Alex Young, Taron Egerton, Turlough Convery, Erin Doherty, Stuart Thompson, Desmonda Cathabel and, most recently, Milly Willows, who made her professional debut in Unfortunate: The Untold Story of Ursula the Sea Witch.


Previous MCs include Hannah Waddingham, Julian Ovenden, Maria Friedman and Joanna Riding.


The Final will be directed by Hannah Chissick (‘Marry Me A Little’, ‘Pack of Lies’, ‘Amour’).


The students will perform for a panel of highly respected judges drawn from West End performers and MD, including Jenna Russell, Callum Scott Howells, Fra Fee (Follies, A Little Night Music) Alex Parker and Olivier Award winner Jak Malone (“Hester” in Operation Mincemeat).


While the jury deliberate, there will also be performances from Bonnie Langford as well as Joaquin Pedro Valdes (star of the recent critically acclaimed Pacific Overtures) and 2023 SSSSPOTY winner Milly Willows.


Each finalist will be required to sing one song by Stephen Sondheim, plus a new song chosen by them from the selection at NEW UK MUSICALS – the organisation founded by Benjamin Button composer Darren Clark to showcase the UK’s best new musical-theatre writing for the stage. It was the express wish of Mr Sondheim that for every one of his songs selected by the finalists, a new song is performed, in order to encourage and support the creation of new work.


The Society is also excited to partner this year with the National Youth Music Theatre (NYMT), and looks forward to featuring a preview performance from Into the Woods at Southwark Playhouse by a chorus drawn from the current cohort of young performers.


For the first time, Prize Giving will be led by Jenna Russell, a patron of The Stephen Sondheim Society, who is taking over the role following the retirement of the Society’s founding Patron, Julia McKenzie.


Craig Glenday, Chair of The Stephen Sondheim Society, said: “We’re very excited to be back in the Sondheim Theatre for the 16th annual competition that bears his name, so a massive thanks once again to our Patron Sir Cameron Mackintosh for his generous support. And as sad as we are to present the show for the first time without our Founding Patron Julia McKenzie – who recently announced her retirement from the event - we’re delighted that Jenna Russell has agreed to continue in Julia’s footsteps as prize-giver, as per Julia’s wishes. We’re also thrilled once again to be sharing the stage with this year’s influx from the National Youth Music Theatre, who will be presenting Into The Woods later this year, and we’re proud to be offering opportunities to young, emerging creatives in roles supporting direction, stage management and musical direction. The invaluable support we receive from our membership across the UK and beyond means we can offer these emerging talents a West End stage from which to show off their amazing abilities. You can say, ‘I saw them here first!’”


PREVIOUS WINNERS

Arts Ed currently leads the field with three winners, with a chance this year to extend their total to four, as their BA Musical Theatre student Harrison Langham is included in the final 12.


2023: Milly Willows (Italia Conti)

2022: Desmonda Cathabel (Royal Academy of Music)

2019: Stuart Thompson (Mountview)

2018: Alex Cardall (Arts Ed)

2017: Izuka Hoyle (Arts Ed)

2016: Courtney Bowman (Guildford School of Acting)

2015: Erin Doherty (Bristol Old Vic Theatre School)

2014: Corrine Priest (London School of Musical Theatre)

2013: Turlough Convery (Guildford School of Acting)

2012: Kris Olsen (Guildhall School of Acting)

2011: Taron Egerton (Royal Academy of Dramatic Art)

2010: Alex Young (Royal Academy of Music)

2009: Michael Peavoy (Royal Academy of Dramatic Art)

2008: Adrian Grove (Bristol Old Vic Theatre School)

2007: Carl Au (Arts Ed)


THE STEPHEN SONDHEIM SOCIETY

Registered Charity Number 1142092

Chair: Craig Glenday (craig.glenday@sondheim.org)

Events: Tina Foote (tina.foote@sondheim.org)


The Stephen Sondheim Society is a registered Charity regulated by the Charity Commission (Registered Number 1142092). Its charitable aims are stated as being: to promote the public knowledge and appreciation of the works of Stephen Sondheim by such means as are charitable; and to advance the public education in music, particularly but not exclusively, to young people by holding an annual music competition. The Society produces cabarets, educational events such as workshops and masterclasses, maintains the Sondheim Archive at Kingston University, and publishes Sondheim The Magazine. The jewel in the Society’s crown, however, is SSSSPOTY, which gives students of musical theatre invaluable experience working with established Directors and Musical Directors, and provides them with a chance to perform on a West End stage. Recent events include Not A Birthday Goes By with Joaquin Pedro Valdes, Alex Young and Friends, Merrily We Sing Along with Ellie Nunn (Upstairs at the Gatehouse), The Art of Making Art: Staging Sondheim (V&A).


LISTINGS INFO

Stephen Sondheim Society Student Performer of the Year 2024

Sondheim Theatre

Shaftesbury Avenue

London

W1D 6BA

Sunday 9 June at 3pm

Tickets:

from £19.75

Box Office: 0344 482 5151

online:


Proceeds are in aid of The Stephen Sondheim Society (Registered Charity No.1142092)

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