Guest Blog: Alex Cardall On Winning The Stephen Sondheim Student Performer Of The Year Award
I was standing on the Savoy Stage in London's West End. I hadn't yet graduated from ArtsEd (The Arts Educational Schools, London). I was holding the Stephen Sondheim Student Performer Of The Year Award. It was a day in June 2018 that I will never forget.
Chris Hocking, the head of ArtsEd, picked me and my dear friend Amara Okereke to represent the school at the competition. I couldn't believe it - I felt so honoured, and determined to give it my best shot.
The first round of auditions involved students from the top drama schools across the UK, and there were around 100 entries for this year's competition. For this audition I chose to sing "Everybody Says Don't" from Anyone Can Whistle. A week or so later, I found out I was shortlisted to the final 12 graduates and I still remember that feeling - very excited and very scared.
For the final at the Savoy, I chose to sing "Buddy's Blues" from Follies along with "You and Me" by Adam Wachter, which also won the Stiles + Drewe Best New Song Prize. Two very contrasting songs that really showed off my creative individuality.
"Buddy's Blues" was a number I'd always wanted to learn but shied away from it due to how challenging it was acting and singing wise. But I knew I had to challenge myself if I was going to be in with a chance of winning the competition. I was able to meet Adam prior to singing "You and Me", which was such a great experience.
It was so refreshing spending time with students from different drama schools, reminiscing about the past three years as well as wondering if our paths would cross again in the industry.
I was so overwhelmed when my name was called out as the winner by one of my idols, Julia McKenzie. I stepped forward and was asked to make a speech, and I remember waffling for a moment and then composing myself.
I said that I wanted to dedicate this performance to my dad, who passed away just before Christmas 2017. At SSSSPOTY and every opportunity I've had since, he's been my lucky angel helping me out along the way. I said some more words, shed some tears, hugged lots of friends old and new, and headed away for a week in sunny Cyprus.
I've been fortunate enough to do some very interesting and fulfilling work since graduating from ArtsEd and winning SSSSPOTY, and I believe a lot of my success has come from the training I received there and the recognition of the award. The latter definitely gave me that leg up into the industry that new graduates desperately need. Even as simple as someone saying to you "I've seen you somewhere before"; people immediately think of SSSSPOTY as a prestigious award for new graduates.
It is also important to recognise as a young performer that you are an individual, and SSSSPOTY certainly celebrates that in abundance. The self-confidence winning SSSSPOTY installed in me is something I'll keep with me for a very long time.
Find out more about the Stephen Sondheim Student Performer Of The Year Award here
Photo credit: David Ovenden