Finalists of 2019 Stephen Sondheim Society Student Performer of the Year

Louise Cowling (The Hammond School, Chester)
Jamie Bogyo (RADA)
Aliza Vakil (Royal Conservatoire of Scotland)
Samantha Bingley (Brunel University)
Oisín Nolan-Power (Royal Academy of Music)
Lily Kerhoas (Royal Academy of Music)
Lucy Reynolds (Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama)
Cameron Burt (Guildford School of Acting)
Niamh James (Royal Central School of Speech and Drama)
Ahmed Hamad (ArtsEd)
Stuart Thompson (LAMDA) 
Paige Fenlon (Bird College)

Host: Joanna Riding
Judges: Edward Seckerson (Chair), Julia McKenzie, Daisy Maywood, Peter Polycarpou, Gareth Valentine

Losing my mind over Losing My Mind – 10 top interpretations of the Sondheim classic

“Sometimes I stand in the middle of the floor”

With the National’s highly anticipated production of Follies (Dominic Cooke directing a cast of 37 and an orchestra of 21, lest you forget) about to start previews in a week’s time, I thought I’d listen to about a hundred different versions of perhaps its most famous song – ‘Losing My Mind’ – and try and decide on a top ten, with the assumption of course that whatever Imelda Staunton will do with the song will be completely, utterly, life-changingly extraordinary (no pressure Meldz).

Continue reading “Losing my mind over Losing My Mind – 10 top interpretations of the Sondheim classic”

Review: Hey, Old Friends, Theatre Royal Drury Lane

Stop worrying where you’re going—move on”

Theatreland does like to make sure every anniversary gets marked somehow and so following on from the celebrations around Les Misérables’ 30th birthday earlier this month is a similar hoohah for Stephen Sondheim’s 85th year on this planet. As is de rigueur for these events, a gala concert has been put on for the occasion with the kind of rollcall you could only normally dream of and naturally, Hey, Old Friends! had the price tag to go along with it.

As with Les Mis (which donated to Save The Children’s Syria Children’s appeal), the show benefitted charitable purposes, specifically The Stephen Sondheim Society and telephone helpline service The Silver Line, harnessing the major fundraising potential of such events. That said, these tickets tend to be so expensive that there’s a nagging feeling that they’re serving a limited audience with few opportunities for regular theatregoers to be a part of them. Continue reading “Review: Hey, Old Friends, Theatre Royal Drury Lane”

Finalists of 2015 Stephen Sondheim Society Student Performer of the Year

Emily Onsloe (Guildhall School of Music & Drama)
Ewan Black (Bristol Old Vic Theatre School)
Lydia White (Hills Road Sixth Form College)
Luke Farrugia (Royal Central School of Speech & Drama)
Charlotte Vaughan (Royal Academy of Music)
Leah West (ArtsEd)
Corey Jones (South Gloucestershire and Stroud College)
Erin Doherty (Bristol Old Vic Theatre School)
Nick Shirm (Guildhall School of Music and Drama)
Amy Bridges (The MTA)
Grant McConvey (Guildford School of Acting)
Natalie Thorn (Performance Preparation Academy)

Host: Michael Xavier
Judges: Edward Seckerson (Chair), Julia McKenzie, Elaine Paige, Laura Pitt Pulford, John Wilson and Jamie Lloyd

Finalists of 2013 Stephen Sondheim Society Student Performer of the Year

Beth Peach-Robinson (Royal Academy of Music)
Maud Millar (GSMD)
Dylan Mason (ArtsEd)
Turlough Convery (Guildford School of Acting)
Nina Logue (BOVTS)
Michael Watson-Gray (Drama Studio London) 
Laura Darton (Mountview)
George Mercer (Oxford School of Drama)
Alistair Toovey (RADA)
Brooke Markham (LAMDA) 
Phoebe Pryce (RADA)
Kara-Ami McCreanor (Performance Preparation Academy) 

Host: Jenna Russell
Judges: Edward Seckerson (Chair), Julia McKenzie, Michael Grandage, Imelda Staunton, Mike Haslam, Matthew Scott, Bert Fink

TV Review: The Town

“Apparently once death seems possible, the idea catches on”

One of the things about winding down the theatregoing at Christmas is being able to catch up on some of the television that I rarely have time to watch normally, and doing so at my parents’ house is particularly ace because of their awesome telly. First up for me was The Town, an ITV three-parter written by one of the hottest playwrights in the country Mike Bartlett. Upping the ante was a cast that included Julia McKenzie, Andrew Scott, Douglas Hodge and also Phil Davis and Siobhan Redmond.

I have long been a fan of Redmond so I was pleased to see the opening moments of the show devoted to her as her character went about the rituals at the end of her day including saying goodnight to her husband as played by Phil Davis. I was then gutted as this proved to be a great case of misdirection as they were both then found dead the next morning by their teenage daughter Jodie, never to be seen again. As their son Mark returns to bury them in this provincial town he left 10 years ago to move to London, the show then deals with the difficulties in returning to a less than lamented hometown, combined with the growing sense that the deaths – recorded as a joint suicide – are less clear-cut than the police would seem to think. Continue reading “TV Review: The Town”

DVD Review: Bright Young Things

“Reader, be glad that you have nothing to do with this world. Its glamour is a delusion, its speed a snare, its music a scream of fear.”

Whilst recently sitting through the 1930s-set play I Am A Camera at the Southwark Playhouse, I had that frustrating sensation of being reminded of a film that I couldn’t quite recall, mainly in the carefree attitudes of its lead characters. A post-show drink or three finally got me there, the film was Bright Young Things and so I popped it onto my Lovefilm list as it had been quite a while since I last saw it and I was keen for a rewatch.

Based on Evelyn Waugh’s novel Vile Bodies which written in 1930, the film marked the screenwriting and directorial debut of a certain Stephen Fry. Positioned as a satire on this section of society, the plot circles around a fast-living decadent set of aristocrats and bohemians living the high life of cocaine and champagne-fuelled parties completely divorced from the realities and responsibilities of the real world around them. Would-be novelist Adam Fenwick-Symes and party girl fiancée Nina Blount are the central couple whose wedding is forever being put off as he keeps losing the money for it, but the Jack and Karen in their lives – the Hon Agatha Runcible and the fey Miles – are much more fun. Continue reading “DVD Review: Bright Young Things”

Finalists of 2012 Stephen Sondheim Society Student Performer of the Year

Matt Corner (ArtsEd, London)
Jennifer Greenwood (Bristol of Old Vic Theatre School)
Mark Donald (Bristol Old Vic Theatre School)
Jason Broderick (Central School of Speech and Drama)
Ewan Black (Dance School of Scotland at Knightswood Sec School)
Kris Olsen (winner) (Guildford School of Acting)
Bryan Parry (Italia Conti Academy)
Hatty Preston (LAMDA)
Matthew Cavendish (LAMDA)
Tia Renée Konsur (Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts)
Charlotte Smith (Oxford School of Drama)
Emma Salvo (runner-up) (Royal Academy of Music)

Host: Claire Moore
Judges: Edward Seckerson (Chair), Julia McKenzie, Laurie Sansom, David Shrubsole, Michael McCabe and Danielle Hope.

DVD Review: Hey Mr Producer

“Do something special, anything special…”

This charity shop malarkey is proving to be a veritable treasure trove of theatrical goodies, of variable quality I should stress, but after the delights of Ms Paige – which will be continued shortly with an upcoming DVD review – I was given this DVD of the 1998 Cameron Mackintosh extravaganza Hey Mr Producer which cost a whole 99p from a British Heart Foundation shop in north west London. A benefit concert ostensibly put together for the RNIB but also honouring and celebrating the work of producer Mackintosh (although oddly he was involved in putting the show together – honouring himself…) by bringing together excerpts from many of the most famous shows he has been involved in and pulling together an extraordinary cast of the musical theatre glitterati, many of whom originated the roles, the like of which has rarely been seen since.

And it really does come across as something special, at times a little frustrating but it is often the way with concerts like these that tantalise with little glimpses of shows and when the calibre of performer is such as it is here, one barely minds as there is much pleasure to be had. It is impressive how much was packed into the single evening, multi-song sections from shows were interspersed with single songs from others meaning that over 20 shows were showcased here. Whether it was shows I love – Little Shop of Horrors, Oliver!, Les Mis, ones I’m ok with – Phantom of the Opera, Company or even ones I’ve never actually seen – My Fair Lady, Miss Saigon, Martin Guerre, Carousel – the sequences that had more than one song worked surprisingly well, getting across something of the flavour of the shows even with the rapid pace and semi-staging. I would have loved to have seen and heard more from Anything Goes, Godspell and The Boyfriend and for Salad Days, Mackintosh’s favourite show apparently, to have gotten a proper treatment, but then I guess the three hour show would have gone on for days. Continue reading “DVD Review: Hey Mr Producer”

Finalists of 2011 Stephen Sondheim Society Student Performer of the Year

Claire Chambers (Central School of Speech and Drama)
Sarah O’Connor (CPA Studios)
Craig Rhys Barlow (GSA)
Katie Bernstein (LIPA)
Taron Egerton (RADA)
Jennifer Logan (RADA)
Hannah Blake (Royal Academy of Music) 
Dom Hodson (Royal Academy of Music)
Kim Anderson (Stella Mann College of Performing Arts)
Howard Jenkins (Arden School of Theatre, Manchester)
Sam Hallion (Musical Theatre Academy)
Bronte Tadman (Oxford School of Drama)

Host: Haydn Gwynne
Judges: Edward Seckerson (Chair), Kerry Ellis, Julia McKenzie, Timothy Sheader, Sarah Travis and Anna Francolini