Tracie Bennett to host the Sondheim Society Student Performer Of The Year Award

Tracie Bennett to host the West End Gala of the 12th Annual Stephen Sondheim Society Student Performer Of The Year and 11th Annual Stiles and Drewe Prize.

Tracie Bennett
Tracie Bennett in Follies. Photo: Johan Persson

The 2018 competition will be staged at the Savoy Theatre on Sunday 10 June at 3pm. Chris Hocking returns to direct the annual gala which is to be hosted by Tracie Bennett, directed by Chris Hocking, musical direction by Mark Etherington. A special guest performer will be announced.

This annual competition, 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 classic song by Stephen Sondheim and a new musical theatre song, written by members of Mercury Musical Developments. The first prize is £1,000. Writer and broadcaster Edward Seckerson returns to Chair the Student Performer judges with Rebecca Caine (the original Cosette in Les Miserables, and Christine in the original London and Canadian companies of The Phantom of the Opera), Rebecca Trehearn (Olivier Award winner for the recent London run of Showboat), Stephen Ridley (Musical Director for American in Paris and The King and I) and David Benedict (Sondheim’s official biographer).

The Stiles + Drewe Prize supports and develops new musical theatre writing via its two distinct arms. Recognising an outstanding song from a new musical and supported by The Entertainment Business, the winner of Best New Song receives £1,000 to put towards developing their work. Judging the Best New Song entries with Stiles and Drewe will be Sharon D Clarke (Caroline, or Change, The Lion King, We Will Rock You) and writer/director Susie McKenna (former Creative Director of Hackney Empire).

In addition, the winner of the Stiles and Drewe Mentorship Award – now in its third year, generously supported by Music Theatre International (Europe) – will also be announced at the Gala. One new musical and its writer(s) will be selected to receive mentorship over a 12-month period, culminating in an industry showcase. Along with Stiles and Drewe, the 2018 judges were composer Grant Olding, the Artistic Director of Royal & Derngate James Dacre and Chichester Festival Theatre’s producer Amelia Ferrand-Rook. A song from each of the three finalist shows will be performed at the event.

Olivier Award-winning writing duo George Stiles and Anthony Drewe said today, “This is without doubt an incredibly strong year for both The Mentorship and Best New Song Prize and we congratulate everyone who entered, all the finalists and shortlisted shows on your passion, imagination and wonderful writing. Keep pumping new blood into new British musical theatre!”

The Stephen Sondheim Society Chairman Craig Glenday commented, “Edward Seckerson tells us each year that the standard gets higher and higher, but having heard some of these 12 students during the heats, I can guarantee 100% that this is most certainly the case. It’s an honour to present these talented finalists with the chance to perform on the London stage – for most of them, their West End debut – and for audiences, it’s a wonderful afternoon of music and the chance to say, ‘I heard them here first!’

The full list of the 12 Best New Song finalists are:

  • Rob Eyles & Robert Gould – As Long As I Have Music
  • Rachel Bellman & Josh Bird – Better Kind Of Me
  • Adam Wachter – Down the Stairs
  • China Doll, Roxanne Lamendola, Leah Fogo & Scott Stait – Everything Will be Alright
  • Bomi Lee & Jason Young – Famous
  • Jim Barne & Kit Buchan – If I Had Wings
  • Rosabella Gregory – Love
  • Bella Barlow & A.C. Smith – Set the Alarm for Six
  • Benjamin Till, Nathan Taylor & Sir Arnold Wesker – Shone With the Sun
  • Nick Butcher – Somewhere In-Between
  • Sara Eker and Giles Fernando – Stars
  • Adam G Wachter – You and Me

The 12 performer finalists are:

  • Alex Cardall, Arts Educational
  • Amara Okereke, Arts Educational
  • Bonnie Baddoo, Bristol Old Vic Theatre School
  • Pedro Leandro, Bristol Old Vic Theatre School
  • Will Carey, Guildford School of Acting
  • Donal Finn, LAMDA
  • Shelby Flannery, LAMDA
  • James Stirling, Mountview Academy of the Theatre Arts
  • Sabi Perez, RADA
  • Elliott Wooster, Royal Central School of Speech and Drama
  • Emily Beresford, The Hammond
  • Thomas Grant, Royal Academy of Music

The finalists for the MTI Stiles + Drewe Mentorship Award 2018 are:

Terror at the Sweet Shop: Music & Lyrics by Gavin Brock, Book by Nichola Rivers

The Mill on the Floss: Book, Music & Lyrics by Thomas Sutcliffe, Additional Music & Lyrics by Lydia Grant

The Season: Book & Lyrics by Kit Buchan, Music by Jim Barnes

Previous winners of the Stiles and Drewe Prize for Best New Song include Tamar Broadbent who took her one-woman show All By My Selfie to the Adelaide Fringe. The 2015 winners Richy Hughes and Joseph Finlay received a full production of their musical The Superhero at the Southwark Playhouse. Past finalists of the student performer prize have includedHollywood star Taron Egerton, Tony Award winner Cynthia Erivo and Alex Young (Carrie in Carousel at ENO, Young Sally inFollies and now Sally Smith in Me and My Girl at Chichester).


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