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Welcome Back Dress Circle!

by Lynne

Dress Circle, the much mourned, missed and indispensible London theatre shop has reopened for business; still in the old premises. Do go and support it.

Congratulations to Society Patron Bernadette Peters on receiving the Isabelle Stevenson Award at the 2012 Tony Awards.

The Isabelle Stevenson Award is presented each year to an individual from the theatre who has made a substantial contribution to humanitarian, social service or charitable organisations. Along with Mary Tyler Moore, Ms Peters formed Broadway Barks which promotes the adoption of shelter animals. She has also written two children’s books whose proceeds go to the charity and is an active supporter of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, Standing Tall and Actors Fund of America.

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BBC News:

“Michael Ball and Imelda Staunton have wowed theWest Endwith their murderous performances in Stephen Sondheim’s bloodthirsty musical Sweeney Todd.

The pair won a standing ovation when the show opened at the Adelphi Theatre on Tuesday night.

“I had a dream to do this six years ago,” Michael Ball told the BBC.

“Three years ago I asked Imelda if she’d do it. And here we are – we’ve opened in theWest End. I’m like a dog with two tails.”. . .”


Here are the first reviews in:

 Guardian (5 stars)

“. . .  Jonathan Kent’s production, which has now transferred fromChichester, and which leaves me grasping for superlatives, has given the piece a fresh look without destroying its essential fabric. . .”

 Telegraph (4 stars):

“. . .Kent’s production doesn’t always achieve the hurtling momentum required by a show inspired by horror films and their scores, which Sondheim has described as “a movie for the stage”.

But that is enough nitpicking. There is far more to commend than to criticise, and those lucky enough to be seeing Sweeney Todd for the first time will be blown away. . .”

 Daily Mail (4 stars)

“. . .In this transfer fromChichesterit is staged and sung and acted with verve. Professionalism at every turn. A top band.

. . . Director Jonathan Kent delivers spectacle. The whole thing is done with artistic oompf. . .”

 The Arts Desk:

“The King Lear of musicals. . . Director Jonathan Kent keeps the complex action moving elegantly across the stage, using all three levels of Ward’s set to good effect as he marks out Sondheim’s shifting rhythms.

. . . Ball, while he does well enough, is ultimately just not big enough. . .”


The Stephen Sondheim Society Student Performer of the Year will take place on the afternoon of Sun May 27th at The Queens Theatre, with the heats held on Sun April 1st. We are pleased to invite colleges to submit students to take part; or if you are a student, make sure that your tutors are applying! All finalists will appear on a West End stage, the winning student will receive a prize of £1,000 and a trophy and (new this year) the runner-up will receive a prize of £250. Judges so far include Laurie Sansom (Artistic Director of the Royal & Derngate, Northampton) and producer of Wicked Michael McCabe. For further info please email  Lynne on


 The competition is in two parts: the initial heat will be held on Sunday April 1st at the Royal Academy of Music, in private; then the competition final will take place at 3pm on Sunday May 27th at The Queens Theatre (courtesy of Society Patron Sir Cameron Mackintosh) in front of a panel of judges from the industry and an audience of industry professionals and the public.

We are inviting you to submit two students, preferably one male and one female, to take part in the contest. Please note that all students must be aged 18 or over by the date of the heats (April 1st). For these heats they will each be asked to sing one song written by Stephen Sondheim. From there, twelve finalists will be chosen and they will be asked to prepare and to perform one Sondheim piece and one new song by writers who are members of Mercury Musical Developments (, an organisation dedicated to developing the craft of book, music and lyric writing in musical theatre. The successful students will be supplied with the new pieces from which to choose a song.

Chaired by Edward Seckerson, the finals’ judging panel will consist of leading industry professionals.  This is the sixth year of the event; past hosts and judges have included Maria Friedman, Sally-Anne Triplett, David Babani, Julia McKenzie, Hannah Waddingham, Maureen Lipman, Gareth Valentine, Kim Criswell, Philip Quast, Haydn Gwynne, director Timothy Sheader and Tony-winning MD Sarah Travis so there will be a strong industry presence. This year we have so far confirmed Laurie Sansom (Artistic Director of the Royal & Derngate, Northampton) and producer of Wicked Michael McCabe, with Society Patron Julia McKenzie presenting the prizes.

When you are making your student selection, do keep in mind that the prize is for Student Performer of the Year and so the emphasis will be on “performance”, not just “voice”, i.e. an amalgam of voice, character, insight, communication: someone who truly inhabits the songs they choose and brings them to life for their audience.

Their choice of songs may also say something about them; we would encourage them for their own sakes not to go for the more well-known Sondheim songs, especially for the finals. Those colleges who have worked closely with their students over the years have tended to fare particularly well.

We are very proud that all of our past winners have gone on to professional success, and many of our other entrants too. It’s always very gratifying when artists cite their entry in their programme biography, stressing how important the experience has been to them.

Please let us know, as soon as possible, whether or not your college would like to be involved and we can then let you have an application form. If you are not the appropriate person to deal with this, please could you pass it on to the correct staff member and also please nominate a staff representative with whom we can correspond. Please note that the closing date for entries is March 16th.

We hope that you will take the opportunity of encouraging your students to be part of this exciting new musical theatre development and look forward to hearing from you.

We have received the following message, which will no doubt be of interest to any Sondheim enthusiasts who are near to Royal Holloway University (near Egham, Surrey)

My name is Richard Robbins and I go to Royal Holloway University and I am organising a concert consisting of the music of Stephen Sondheim’s. It is going to be an event with orchestra and young performers and I was wondering if I might be able to share some information about the event with your website.

It will be an evening in the vein of the Prom last year with a great deal of variety. It should be a brilliant evening.

Its going to be on Saturday 26th November in the Windsor building at Royal Holloway University of London at 730pm.

Tickets will be £11/£9 Senior Citizens.

And the event will be called Stephen Sondheim: A Musical Tribute.

Any questions, please get in touch by emailing trolls AT hotmail DOT co DOT uk

Many thanks,

Richard Robbins

Categories news, Uncategorized


Cynthia Erivo, a finalist in 2009′s Stephen Sondheim Society Student Performer of the Year Competition, has been cast in the leading role of Deloris Van Cartier in the UK tour of Alan Menken’s musical, Sister Act – further proof that being a SSSSPOTY finalist is good for your career! Cynthia joins other cast members Denise Black, Michael Starke and Julie Atherton.
Producer Whoopi Goldberg said:  “We were thrilled to open Sister Act in London but I’m even more excited to have the show tour the UK so even more folks experience those singing nuns. It’s a great show for everyone…your kids, your granny, even the neighbour next door who you might not like so much! I promise, you’ll have a great night in the theatre. Look out Great Britain and Ireland – the Sisters are coming!”
Another finalist in our 2009 competition, Aaron Lee Lambert (currently appearing in Shrek the Musical), was in the London cast of Sister Act before it closed to make way for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s production of The Wizard of Oz.