Last Updated on 17th June 2017
The Stephen Sondheim Society Student Performers Of The Year Award and the Stiles And Drewe Prize for Best New Song were held yesterday at London’s Novello Theatre.
Clustered inside the theatre on a sunny London afternoon, the programme was hosted by Julian Ovenden and with performances from Ovenden, Sophie Louise Dann, Natasha Cottriall and former winners of the Performer Of The Year Award.
Courtney Bowman won the Student Performer Of the Year Award (£1000 prize) with her performances of Me And My Town from Anyone Can Whistle and The Driving Lesson from the musical Heart Of Winter written by Tim O’Connor.
Speaking to BritishTheatre.com after the event Courtney said: “I’m so surprised to have won, because everyone involved was so brilliant. There are no two people who are the same out of the twelve of us, and it’s so refreshing to watch and learn from other performers. Being thrown together yesterday to learn the ensemble piece, was really wonderful. Working with other performers who have a passion for acting through song, as I do, was a real cherry on the cake. We are all winners!“.
Tim O’Conor also won the Stiles And Drewe Best New Song award for Back To School from Heart Of Winter. The Prize recognises an outstanding song from a new musical, and the winner receives a prize of £1,000 to put towards developing their work.
The Student Performer Award saw 12 finalists each perform a Sondheim song followed by a song from a new musical. BritishTheatre.com was particularly impressed with performances from Dafydd Gape who sang Marry Me A Little and Rivets by David Perkins, Dominic and Joe Male, Edward Laurenson who sang My Friends and Echoes by Craig Adams and Andrew Doyle and Eleanor Jackson (who was the runner-up in the event) who sang Sunday In The Park With George and More To Life by James Burn.
This year also marked the expansion of the Stiles and Drewe Prize to include their inaugural Mentorship Award, supported by Music Theatre International (Europe). Darren Clark and Rhys Jennings win the Mentorship Award with the new musical The Wicker Husband. They will receive 12 months of mentorship and support, benefiting from monthly writers’ labs, a one-week writing retreat, and two panel-led progress labs, with the year culminating in an industry showcase. Stiles and Drewe won the first Vivian Ellis Prize in 1985 for their musical Just So, which introduced them to the major heavyweights of the musical theatre world and made an enormous impact at the beginning of their careers. The MTI Stiles + Drewe Mentorship Award aims to give a similar kick-start to a new generation of musical theatre writing talent.
The event yesterday was musical directed with considerable flair by Mark Warman and directed by Chris Hocking. The winners were selected by a panel of judges including Don Black, Jason Carr, Anne Reid MBE, Thea Sharrock, Paul Hart, Lotte Wakeham and Sondheim Society Patron Julia McKenzie and Olivier Award-nominated actress Sophie-Louise Dann and the student performer judging panel was chaired by writer and broadcaster Edward Seckerson.