From The Stage
The Stephen Sondheim Society Student Performer of the Year Competition 2012 and The Stiles and Drewe Best New Song Prize
Published Monday 28 May 2012 at 12:33 by Jennifer Reischel
As the country glistens in rare Sunday sunshine, a different kind of heat takes place at the Queens Theatre. Some of the industry’s finest young talent compete, performing solos from Sondheim’s wealth of wordy works, as well as selected new musical theatre material from composer members of Mercury Musical Developments. Battling it out to claim prize money, prestige and the winning titles presented by Julia McKenzie, are mainly students currently attending or shortly to commence training at some of theUK’s leading drama schools. Accompanied in the finest form by expert musical director Mark Etherington, the ensemble commence the afternoon with the very fitting Everybody’s Got The Right from Assassins.
Final year arts educational student Matt Corner kicks off the competition with an intriguing and detailed performance of Follies’ Uptown/Downtown, giving just the right amount of panache and distinction between the contrasting activities pursued by the object of his affection. He then hits all the right notes in Julian Woolford and Richard John’s concoction SmallvilleColoradofrom Comrade Rockstar, a well-constructed power ballad full of longing and anticipation. Bristol Old Vic’s Jennifer Greenwood follows with a promising interpretation of Everybody Loves Louis from Sunday In The Park With George but seems even more suited to Easy by Charles Bloom. Originally from Heaven Knows, this number has now been reworked as a stand-alone highlight andGreenwoodgives plenty of gravitas and vocal resonance to a woman’s journey of independence after freeing herself from a difficult relationship. Mark Donald deserved a special mention from the panel for his well-paced angst – and frustration-ridden performance of Marry Me A Little from Company. He also shows impressive maturity in Laurence Mark Wythe’s emotional To Belong Somewhere, as a grieving father attempting to reconcile with his adult son.
Jason Broderick was noticed at Central’s musical theatre showcase earlier this year and does not fail to impress again with The Day Off from Sunday In The Park With George, comfortably inhabiting canine characters in this tricky character piece. He doesn’t come across quite as comfortable as glam rock wannabe hitting Broadway in Danny Davis and Pete Gallagher’s Shine On Down, which requires a more contemporary sound and portrayal. At a mere 18 years of age, Scottish native Ewan Black is one to watch with a natural gift for acting through song. Particularly his second performance, Why Can’t A Man Sing The Blues, brilliantly structured by Charles Bloom, proves a wonderful showcase for his farcical abilities and will surely become a cabaret comedy standard of the future. Highlight of the afternoon proves to be GSA Kris Olsen’s side-splitting interpretation of Buddy’s Blues from Follies: Watching him morph effortlessly from vaudeville style patter to dark, yet tender piece If They Only Knew from Bridges (by Chris Passey), he proves highly accomplished at mastering the full musical theatre spectrum. Olsen is later chosen as the deseving winning student performer of 2012.
Powerhouse Hatty Preston kicks off heels and makes full use of her chair in Sooner Or Later from Dick Tracy, putting a unique stamp on this jazzy Sondheim classic. Committing fully to a woman scarily determined to seduce at all costs, Blue Sky Thinking (by Chris Passey and Chris Smith) then works in her favour as a thoughtful, more pensive contrast. Matthew Cavendish certainly has a good thing going pouring his heart and soul into this popular pensive from Merrily We Roll Along. He most shines though as a kooky struggling Canadian actor in Conor Mitchell’s Easier, a brilliant composition full of sarcasm and clever one-liners detailing the perils of online dating.
Alexander Bermange’s Somehow I’ll Be Famous is perfectly performed by a strong Tia Renee Konsur who manages to portray vulnerability without losing the comedy aspects. The girls continue to impress as 19-year-old Charlotte Smith commands the stage in Don’t Laugh from Sondheim’s Hot Spot. Segueing smoothly into a dramatic Powercut by Douglas Hodge, she benefits from very finely crafted lyrics in this impressive eleven o’clock number, which shares the best new song prize with Do You Want A Baby, Baby by Dougal Irvine. Currently composing in residence under the Cameron Mackintosh/Mercury Musicals Composer Scheme, his winning creation from The Busker’s Opera is a highly sophisticated, yet wonderfully current Lily Allen style number, which puts a whole new spin on the term busking. Emma Salvo is perfectly cast as Lucy Lockett rapping her life changing news to her former lover now in prison, perfectly in sync with tricky tempo and musical changes, as well as the varying dynamics of the storyline. Salvo claims the runner-up prize as student performer of 2012 after also making her mark in Sunday In The Park With George with a performance to rival those many years her senior and experience.
Claire Moore hosts with some heartfelt anecdotes and a masterclass of song interpretations (including a wonderfully heartfelt Losing My Mind). Closing the show with I’m So Over Men from Stiles and Drewe’s Soho Cinders, Beverly Rudd and Suzie Chard give us a highly enticing taste of this new musical gem shortly to open at the Soho Theatre. A worthwhile and entertaining afternoon of the best of new British.
Queens Theatre, May 27
Claire Moore, Taron Egerton, Suzie Chard and Beverly Rudd
Ewan Black, Jason Broderick, Matthew Cavendish, Matt Corner, Mark Donald, Jennifer Greenwood, Tia Renee Konsur, Kris Olsen, Brian Parry, Harry Preston, Emma Salvo, Charlotte Smith, Peter Hannah, Rege-Jean Page