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The Stephen Sondheim Society Student
Performer of the Year competition (SSSSPOTY)


This year, we'll be celebrating the 15th anniversary of our annual student performer competition. The idea for a prize to help support a performing arts student starting out in the world of professional musical theatre formed in 2007, at which point Stephen Sondheim asked us if the event could also be used to showcase the work of new composers and lyricists. "New writers", he said, "don’t tend to get so many chances to show off their work."

In that year, we presented the first Stephen Sondheim Society Student Performer of the Year award (affectionate known as SSSSPOTY). The format was simple: sing - or more accurately, perform! - a song with music and/or lyrics by Mr Sondheim. From the second year of the competition, in the light of Sondheim’s wishes, as well as singing a song by Sondheim, the students who make it through to the SSSSPOTY finals each sing a new piece of writing for the stage. We initially worked closely with Mercury Musical Developments (MMD) to showcase new writing, and this year, we began a new partnership with the New UK Musicals organisation.


In 2022 - after a COVID-enforced hiatus - we were thrilled to host the competition in the theatre that now bears Sondheim's name, thanks to a kind donation from Cameron Mackintosh. It was particularly poignant given the recent passing of Mr Sondheim that the competition should held in this gloriously renovated theatre.

The SSSSPOTY first prize (a silver salver and a cheque for £1,000) was awarded to the student who, in the opinion of the judges, gave the best performance of their two songs: in 2022, Desmonda Cathabel, of the Royal Academy of Music.

In recent years, it has been customary to have a runner up and this has now been formalised by the award of a prize to the student in second place. This year's winner was Ella Shepherd from Bird College Conservatoire.

And because the judges were split, a third prize was awarded: to Jade Oswald, also from the Royal Academy of Music.

Congratulations to all the finalists, and particularly to Desmonda, Ella and Jade.


...was founded by Darren Clark, a multi-award-winning UK musical theatre writer. Through many conversations with colleagues, including members of MMD, BML and Alumni of BEAM and Adam Lenson's Signal, he realised that there was a missing piece in the infrastructure of new musical theatre in the UK. While there was plenty of excellent new work being created, access to those songs was limited as there was no central hub at which the sheet music could be found.

And so NEW UK MUSICALS was born.


"Because it is run by writers," says Darren, "we have the best interests of both writers and performers at heart. We want new musical theatre in the UK to grow and thrive. We want songs from new musicals to be sung at cabarets, auditions and in showers throughout the country."


If you or your school is interested in entering the 2023 SSSSPOTY competition, please send an email to

SSSSPOTY 2023 poster

The SSSSPOTY 2023 competition will be held at The Sondheim Theatre in Shaftebury Avenue on the afternoon of Sunday 11th June.

To honour Sondheim's wishes of having a new song performed for each of his own compositions, the Society is pleased to be working with New UK Musicals to showcase some new songwriting for the stage.

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