Finalists for 16th annual Stephen Sondheim Society Student Performer of the Year 2024 competition

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.

The final will be hosted by 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.

Bonnie Langford will host. 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).

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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).

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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.

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