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Judges And Performers Announced For 2019 West End Gala Of The Stephen Sondheim Society Student Performer Of The Year And Stiles + Drewe Prize

The Stephen Sondheim Society and Mercury Musical Developments today announce West End Musical Director Gareth Valentine as the final judge for the 2019 Stephen Sondheim Society Student Performer of the Year (SSSSPOTY), alongside the previously announced Julia McKenzie, Peter Polycarpou, and Edward Seckerson. Lyricist Charles Hart and Olivier Award-winner Jenna Russell join Nkeki Obi-Melekwe and Stiles + Drewe to complete the judging panel for the Stiles + Drewe Best New Song Prize. Winners will be announced at Theatre Royal Haymarket on Sunday 9 June.

Also announced today, the gala will feature guest performances from host Joanna Riding, and from Andy Coxon and Gabriela Garcia, the stars of the sold-out Royal Exchange Theatre production of West Side Story.

The Stephen Sondheim Society Student Performer of the Year, co-produced by The Stephen Sondheim Society and Mercury Musical Developments, sees twelve of the top student performers from musical theatre and drama schools across the UK each perform a song by Stephen Sondheim, and a new musical theatre song written by members of Mercury Musical Developments. The performers are competing for the top prize of £1,000.

The Stiles + Drewe Prize supports and develops new musical theatre writing, recognising an outstanding song from a new musical, and is supported by The Entertainment Business. The winner of Best New Song receives £1,000 to put towards developing their work.

The Stiles + Drewe Prize Best New Song finalists are:

  • Against The Tide - Benjamin Till
  • Aunt Betty Always Said - Finn Anderson
  • Dead In The Water - Zoe Roberts, Natasha Hodgson, David Cumming & Felix Hagan
  • Enough Already - RC Staab & Seth Bisen-Hersh
  • Marvin - Vikki Stone
  • Miracles - Robyn Grant, Daniel Foxx & Pippa Cleary
  • My Thing - Ben Glasstone & Poppy Burton-Morgan
  • Self Checkout - Amir Shoenfeld
  • Silver - Jude Obermüller & David Gomez
  • The Scullion's Candle - Carl Miller & Chris Ash
  • The Tease - Tim Connor
  • Words/Amazing - Theo Jamieson

The Stephen Sondheim Society Student Performer of the Year finalists are:

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

Previous winners of the Stiles + Drewe Prize include Jim Barne and Kit Buchan (The Season, which will receive a full production at Royal & Derngate and New Wolsey in 2019), Tim Connor, Adam Wachter, Darren Clarke and Rhys Jennings (The Wicker Husband which was showcased in the 2018 NAMT Festival of New Musicals in New York). Past finalists of the student performer prize have included Hollywood star Taron Egerton, Tony Award winner Cynthia Erivo and Alex Young (Carrie in Carousel at ENO, Young Sally in Follies, and Sally Smith in Me and My Girl at Chichester).

Andy Coxon's theatre credits include West Side Story (Royal Exchange Theatre), Hair The Musical (The Vaults), Yank! (Charing Cross Theatre), Beautiful - The Carole King Musical (Aldwych Theatre), and Les Miserables (Queen's Theatre).

Gabriela Garcia's theatre credits include West Side Story (Royal Exchange Theatre), Strictly Ballroom (Piccadilly Theatre), In The Heights (Kings Cross Theatre), and Ghost (UK tour).

Charles Hart is a lyricist. His theatre credits include Bend It Like Beckham, Aspects of Love - for which he was nominated for the 1990 Tony Award for Best Original Score, and The Phantom of the Opera -for which he was nominated for the 1988 Tony Award for Best Original Score. For Opera, his credits include Marx in London, Benvenuto Cellini, and The Vampyr.

Jenna Russell's theatre credits include Fun Home (Young Vic), Doctor Faustus (Duke of York's Theatre), Grey Gardens (Southwark Playhouse), Urinetown (Apollo Theatre) Sunday in the Park with George (Wyndham's Theatre - for which she won the 2007 Olivier Award for Best Actress in a Musical / Studio 54, Broadway - for which she was nominated for the 2008 Tony Award for Leading Actress in a Musical), and Guys and Dolls (Piccadilly Theatre - for which she was nominated for the 2006 Olivier Award for Best Actress in a Musical). For television, she starred as Michelle Fowler in EastEnders.

Gareth Valentine is a Musical Director. His theatre credits include Sweet Charity (Donmar Warehouse), Me and My Girl (Chichester Festival Theatre), Ruthless (Arts Theatre), Singin' in the Rain (Théâtre Du Châtelet), and Guys and Dolls (Phoenix Theatre, Savoy Theatre, UK tour).

Presented in association with Fane Productions as part of the 'Sunday Encounters at the Haymarket' season.

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