The 12 finalists have been revealed for the 14th Stephen Sondheim Society Student Performer of the Year competition – affectionately known as SSSSPOTY.
The gala final of this year’s competition – the first since the passing of legendary composer Stephen Sondheim – will be held, fittingly, in the Sondheim Theatre, on 30 May, 2022. This year, The Stephen Sondheim Society (a charitable trust founded in 1993) elected to open the field up to every student of musical theatre, and asked for auditions to be made via video.
More than 300 submissions were received, and the final 12, plus 3 reserves, were selected by critic and broadcaster Edward Seckerson (Chair of the Judges) and Musical Director Nigel Lilley (Follies, National Theatre; Fun Home, Young Vic).
The 12 finalists are:
Caitlyn Allen – Arts Educational Schools (ArtsEd)
Rithvik Andugula – London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA)
Annabelle Aquino – Royal Conservatoire of Scotland
Tommy Bell – Bristol Old Vic Theatre School
Joe Boyle – Mountview
Desmonda Cathabel – Royal Academy of Music
Ed Cooke – East 15 Acting School
Cassius Hackforth – Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance
Izzy Mackie – Royal Academy of Music
Callum Martin – Bird College Conservatoire for Dance and Musical Theatre
Jade Oswald – Royal Academy of Music
Ella Shepherd – Bird College Conservatoire for Dance and Musical Theatre
Owing to the still-precarious situation with COVID-19, The Sondheim Society Trustees and judges also agreed to identify three reserves:
Mackenzie Larsen – London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA)
Izi Maxwell – Mountview
Tom Watson – Bird College Conservatoire for Dance and Musical Theatre
The winner will receive a £1,000 first prize, and the chance to headline their own Sondheim-infused cabaret in London. This year, Edward Seckerson is also inviting the winner to be the subject of one of his Comparing Notes sessions – his series of intimate conversations and performances at the Crazy Coqs. The runner-up is also awarded £500.
The students will perform for a panel of highly respected judges drawn from West End performers, directors and MDs. Confirmed as a judge is award-winning composer, lyricist, orchestrator, arranger, musical supervisor and pianist Theo Jamieson, whose credits as MD include: Everybody’s Talking About Jamie (Apollo, UK Tour, Australia), Funny Girl (Savoy), High Society (Old Vic), Putting it Together (St James).
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 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 honoured to partner this year with the National Youth Music Theatre (NYMT), and feature a performance by a chorus drawn from the current cohort of young performers.
The Prize Giving will be led by Julia McKenzie, a founding patron of The Stephen Sondheim Society and one of the most celebrated interpreters of Sondheim’s work.