Venue: Theatre Royal Haymarket
Date: 9 June
MD: Nigel Lilley
Director: Chris Hocking
Host: Joanna RIding
Opening number: "What More Do I Need?" from Saturday Night
Guest performers: Alex Cardall; Tori Allen-Martin; Andy Coxon, Gabriela Garcia and Jason Carr.
Winner: Stuart Thompson (LAMDA)
Runner-up: Paige Fenlon (Bird College)
Special Prize: Jamie Bogyo (RADA)
Best New Song: "Words/Amazing" by Theo Jamieson
Runner-up Song: "My Thing" by Ben Glasstone and Poppy Burton-Morgan
The 2019 finals of The Stephen Sondheim Society Student Performer of the Year (aka SSSSPOTY) and the Stiles + Drewe Prize (in conjunction with Mercury Musical Developments) were held on Sunday 9th June on the stage of the Theatre Royal Haymarket, where last year's third-place winner Oscar Conlon-Morrey is currently featuring in Only Fools and Horses!
The heats were held on Sunday 24 March at the Bishopsgate Institute in London, where 58 students sang in front of Edward Seckeron (Chair) and Nigel Lilley (MD), accompanied by Bob Broad (when requested). The final 12 were selected, from 11 schools.
The eventual winner was Stuart Thompson from LAMDA, who performed "Franklin Shepard, Inc." and "My Thing" (which claimed the runner-up prize for Best New Song - see below)
Paige Fenlon from Bird College was selected as the student runner up, and Jamie Bogyo from RADA was awarded a special third-place prize donated by Julia McKenzie.
Craig Glenday, Chair of the Stephen Sondheim Society, said: “Once again, the standard at this annual celebration of young and emerging talent was incredibly high, and I know the judges struggled to pick the winners. This gala has earned its status as one of the most important musical-theatre events of the year, and the Society is thrilled at the enthusiastic response from all those in attendance. Many thanks to our generous patron Julia McKenzie for once again allowing us to award a third place performer, and congratulations to Stuart, Paige and Jamie - well done and well deserved. But we really want to commend everyone for staging the most marvellous afternoon of entertainment."
Theo Jamieson was awarded the Stiles + Drewe Prize for his original song "Words/Amazing". And Ben Glasstone and Poppy Burton-Morgan were chosen as runners up for the Stiles + Drewe Prize, for their original song "My Thing".
George Stiles and Anthony Drewe also said: "There is no question that there is a wonderful array of musical theatre writing talent here in the UK. We were so thrilled to receive over 170 entries this year, and proud to present our 12 exceptional finalists on the Theatre Royal Haymarket stage. The diversity and strength of the writing featured in this afternoon's gala bears testament to a very exciting future for British musical theatre.”
The Stephen Sondheim Society Student Performer of the Year was chosen by judges Daisy Maywood, Julia McKenzie, Peter Polycarpou, Edward Seckerson (Chair) and Gareth Valentine. Anthony Drewe, Charles Hart, Jenna Russell, and Nkeki Obi-Melekwe selected the Stiles + Drewe Prize winner. Both winners were awarded £1,000 – with thanks to Tricia Sharpe and Ray Barker for their generous donation of the Student Prize.
Runner-up Paige was awarded £500, for whom we'd like to thank the Newsome Family, who also provided a £150 prize to the singer of the Best New Song: Niamh James from the Royal Central School of Speech & Drama.
The gala also featured performances from host Joanna Riding, 2018 SSSSPOTY winner Alex Cardall, who reprised his winning number from last year ("Buddy's Blues") and also sang a duet with Tori Allen-Martin, and Andy Coxon and Gabriela Garcia, the stars of the recent Royal Exchange Theatre production of West Side Story, performed the Balcony Scene with MD Jason Carr at the piano.
The Society would like to thank the tireless MD Nigel Lilley, Director Chris Hocking and Stage Manager Ali Wade for once again helping us to create a fantastic Sunday afternoon of music.
The Student Performer of the Year Finalists (in order of performance)
Louise Cowling is from Liverpool and is graduating this year from The Hammond School, Chester. Louise has worked with NYMT for the past two years and is excited to be joining them with their production of Parade in the role of Lucille. Louise credits Stephen Sondheim as one of the greatest composers in musical theatre, and is so thrilled to be part of the final this year. She would like to thank her family and friends for their constant support, and most importantly, all the glory goes to God.
Sondheim: “Everybody Loves Louis” (Sunday in the Park with George)
BNS: “Silver” by Jude Obermüller & David Gomez
Jamie Bogyo (third place) completes the BA in Acting degree from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) this year, having studied previously at the HB Studio in New York, Yale University and the British American Dramatic Academy. Experience: Adonis Perfect in The Travels (NYMF), Wesley in Dust Can’t Kill Me, John Proctor in The Crucible, Leading Player in Pippin, Gary Lejeune in Noises Off, Bobby Strong in Urinetown, Underling in The Drowsy Chaperone, Sonny Malone in Xanadu, and Leontes in A Winter’s Tale. Jamie was a prize-winner in the New York City Shakespeare Competition and a nationally acclaimed soloist for the track “It Started in the Winter” on the Duke’s Men of Yale album Busted.
Sondheim: “The Ballad of Booth” (Assassins)
BNS: “Self Checkout” by Amir Shoenfeld
Aliza Vakil is graduating this year from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. She was born in London to Persian/Irish parents, who she has dragged to every play, musical and concert since birth. Her credits include Mary in The Beautiful Game, Celeste in Sunday in the Park with George, Ilse in Spring Awakening and Morgan Le Fay in Pendragon, all with the National Youth Music Theatre. For her third-year production in March, she was lucky enough to play Dot/Marie in Sunday in the Park with George, her favourite show of all time.
Sondheim: “In Buddy's Eyes” (Follies)
BNS: “Marvin” by Vikki Stone
Samantha Bingley is a third year Theatre and Creative Writing student at Brunel University. She is also a former member of the National Youth Music Theatre with shows including Prodigy and The Ragged Child. Other experiences include Martha in The Secret Garden (Ambassadors Theatre) and Desirée Armfeldt in A Little Night Music (Antonin Artaud). Sammy is delighted to be representing Brunel in such a prestigious competition and wants to thank everyone for their continuing love and support.
Sondheim: “That Dirty Old Man” (A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum)
BNS: “Miracles” by Robyn Grant, Daniel Foxx & Pippa Cleary
Oisín Nolan-Power is a graduate of the 2018/19 Royal Academy of Music MA Musical Theatre course, having previously studied at The Irish College of Music Theatre in Dublin. Stage experience includes: James in Chromatics (Other Palace), Motel in Fiddler On The Roof (National Concert Hall), Barnaby Tucker in Hello, Dolly! (Draiocht Theatre), Bobby in Cabaret (Helix Theatre), John Reid in Jane Eyre (Gate Theatre). Oisín is a keen musician and plays piano, guitar and Irish fiddle. He is a long-time Sondheim fan and is delighted to be in the SSSSPOTY finals. Oisín will next be performing as Oscar D’Armano in The Royal Academy of Music’s production of The Wild Party.
Sondheim: “Talent” (Road Show)
BNS: “Dead in the Water” by Zoe Roberts, Hatasha Hodgson, David Cumming & Felix Hagan
Lily Kerhoas discovered the theatre world after five years of gymnastics. She studied for three years at France’s Choreia Performing Art Center, then trained at the Atelier Juliette Moltes acting school. Her professional career began in New York with the Barely Legal Extravaganza concert with composers Sam Carner and Dereck Gregor. She then performed in shows in Paris – L’École des Petits Montres, Le Pirate et la Poupée, Comment Poussent les Ailes?, Barbe Bleue, Seasons – and in concerts with US composers such as Joel B. New, Peter Mills, Jill Santoriello, Elaine Pechacek and John Bucchino. For the first time in 2017/18, she signed a contract with a big production (Stage Entertainment France) and was in the ensemble of Grease (understudy Sandy). She decided to study at the Royal Academy of Music to improve her skills and challenge herself.
Sondheim: “No-One is Alone” (Into The Woods)
BNS: “Aunt Betty Always Said” by Finn Anderson
Lucy Reynolds is a graduate Actor from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. She is also a former member of the National Youth Musical Theatre. Stage experience includes The Ragged Child with NYMT. She has also been a part of the Richard Burton Theatre Company for the past year, credits included Kate Keller in Arthur Miller’s All My Sons and Carol/Helen in Jim Cartwright’s Road. Lucy will be starting with the BBC Radio Drama rep in July. She will also be competing in the Spotlight Award Finals. It is a dream come true to be competing in the Sondheim Finals.
Sondheim: “Don't Laugh” (Hot Spot)
BNS: “The Tease” by Tim Connor
Cameron Burt is from London and is graduating from The Guildford School of Acting this year. His credits include Jason in Prom Queen (The Other Palace) and Prince Charming in Cinderella (Yvonne Arnaud). He also performed with NYMT for three years. Cameron will soon be appearing as Sky in Mamma Mia! in London. He is thrilled to be in the finals.
Sondheim: “Ariadne” (The Frogs)
BNS: “The Scullion's Candle” by Carl Miller & Chris Ash
Niamh James is soon to graduate from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. She will soon be appearing in a new musical at Central called A Permanent State of Emergency. She previously attended the BRIT school and NYT. Her favourite Sondheim musical is Company, which she has performed in twice, once as Jenny, and once as Joanne. She is very excited to have been chosen as a finalist.
Sondheim: “I Know Things Now” (Into The Woods)
BNS: “Words/Amazing” by Theo Jamieson (Winner)
Ahmed Hamad is from Shrewsbury in the West Midlands and is graduating from ArtsEd this year. During his three years, he has had the privilege of working on a wide range of Sondheim musicals including his favourite, Sunday in the Park with George. He is currently in rehearsals for Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat this summer and is thrilled to be a finalist in SSSSPOTY 2019! His credits include BBC Proms: West Side Story (Royal Albert Hall), NFTS Showcase (Soho Theatre), Workshop for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cinderella (The Other Palace).
Sondheim: “Class” (Saturday Night)
BNS: “Against the Tide” by Benjamin Till
Stuart Thompson (winner) is originally from Durham, and moved to London when he was 16 to study musical theatre at Arts Educational Schools sixth form. His final show there was Into The Woods, in which he played one of his dream roles, the Baker. He went from there to LAMDA to train for his BA (Hons) in Acting and is currently in his final year there, graduating this July. To be able to bring to life one of Sondheim’s leading men professionally is one of Stuart’s main life goals!
Sondheim: “Franklin Shepard, Inc.” (Merrily We Roll Along)
BNS: “My Thing” by Ben Glasstone & Poppy Burton-Morgan
Paige Fenlon (runner-up) is in her graduating year at Bird College and is currently performing in Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens at the Union Theatre. She will then join the cast of Oklahoma! at the Chichester Festival Theatre this summer. Credits while training include Alison in Cry Baby, Featured Singer in Behind the Burlesque, Nicki in Sweet Charity, Featured Actor in Oh Darling you were Marvellous (Doreen Bird Foundation Theatre), and Featured Dancer in MOVE IT (London Excel). Paige is thrilled to be a part of the competition.
Sondheim: “Last Midnight” (Into The Woods)
BNS: “Enough Already” by RC Staab & Seth Bisen-Hersh
Student Performer of the Year: Edward Seckerson (Chair), Julia McKenzie, Daisy Maywood, Peter Polycarpou, Gareth Valentine
Stiles+Drewe Prize for Best New Song: Anthony Drewe, Charles Hart, Nkeki Obi-Melekwe, Jenna Russell