Today the Novello Theatre hosted the 10th anniversary of the Stephen Sondheim Society Student Performer of the Year. Presented by Julian Ovenden, the afternoon celebrated the extraordinary talent of student performers from the UK’s many musical theatre courses.
The awards are produced by The Stephen Sondheim Society and Mercury Musical Developments and in addition to the £1,000 first prize, there was also the Stiles + Drewe Prizes that supports and develops new musical theatre writing via its two distinct arms. There was an award for Best New Song and this year, they launched their inaugural MTI Mentorship Award, supported by Music Theatre International. One new musical and the writers were selected to receive mentorship over a 12-month period, culminating in an industry showcase.
Judges of the awards included Don Black, Jason Carr, Anne Reid MBE, Sondheim Society Patron Julia McKenzie and Olivier Award-nominated actress, the amazing Sophie-Louise Dann.
The wonderful gala was a fantastic celebration of all things Sondheim, directed by Chris Hocking and musical direction by Mark Warman. We were treated to an array of Sondheim classics and highlights included Dafydd Gape singing “Marry Me a Little” from Company, Eleanor Jackson with “Sunday in the Park with George” and Abigail Fitzgerald’s “Moments in the Woods” From Into the Woods. There was also a sneak preview of Becoming Nancy sung gorgeously by Sophie-Louise Dann from the new Stiles + Drewe musical that will première later in the year.
It was lovely to spend the afternoon celebrating future talent and watch this space as I am sure there will be many names up in lights very soon.
So onto the winner and the worthy recipient of this year’s Stephen Sondheim Society Student Performer of the Year prize was Courtney Bowman who gave a fabulous performance of “Me and My Town” from Anyone Can Whistle.
Tim Connor won the Stiles + Drewe Prize for Best New Song for “Back To School” from his new musical Heart of Winter.
Darren Clark & Rhys Jennings won the Mentorship Award with the new musical The Wicker Husband.
The full list of student finalists were:
Abigail Fitzgerald (22) – Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts
Adam Small (22) – Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts
Ashley Reyes (20) – LAMDA
Callum McGuire (23) – Oxford School of Drama
Courtney Bowman (21) – GSA University of Surrey
Dafydd Gape (23) – Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama
Edward Laurenson (27) – Guildhall School of Music & Drama
Eleanor Jackson (24) – Bristol Old Vic Theatre School
Emily Day (20) – Performance Preparation Academy
Kirsty Ingram (20) – Arts Educational Schools
Lauren Drew (23) – Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts
Tabitha Tingey (22) – The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland