Stephen Sondheim Society
Student Performer of the Year

Attending the Stephen Sondheim Society Student Performer of the Year event was an absolute delight. Set in the Sondheim Theatre, it was clear we were in for an extraordinary afternoon. The top 12 performers, selected from over 300 applicants, promised an afternoon of unforgettable performances, and they delivered.

The setting itself was special, with the iconic Les Misérables stage making room for this event, featuring just a piano and chairs for the students. Our host for the evening, Bonnie Langford, brought her unique charm, making everyone feel at ease and engaging the audience effortlessly while issuing reminders about buying programmes. Her later performance was an added treat.

Each student performed a Sondheim song alongside a piece from the New UK Musicals catalogue, showcasing the brilliant work of emerging writers and composers. These new songs were impressive, standing strong even without contextual background, and highlighting the incredible talent of the next generation of musical theatre creators.

The afternoon included a fantastic preview from the National Youth Musical Theatre's production of Into the Woods, set to perform at the Southwark Playhouse in August. If this preview was any indication, it's a show not to be missed. Ronav Jain, who will play Jack, delivered a moving performance alongside Joaquin Pedro Valdes, demonstrating the supportive and nurturing spirit of the musical theatre community.

All performers were exceptional, but a special mention must go to Nigel Lilley, the Musical Director and pianist for most of the afternoon. His skilful playing, especially of the notoriously challenging Sondheim pieces, was truly commendable.

The standout of the night was Madeleine Morgan from the Royal Academy of Music, whose performances of "Moment in the Woods" from Into the Woods and "Running on Empty" from Mayflies by Gus Gowland earned her the top prize. Other notable performances included Tumi Olufawo from the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, who had the audience laughing with "Press Hash to Re-Record" from Fiver by Alex James Ellison, and Gavin Rasmussen from LAMDA, who sang "Marry Me a Little" from Company and a rendition of the comedic cabaret number "Tartarus" from The Sorrows of Satan by Luke Bateman and Michael Conley which were highlights of the event.

We also enjoyed a performance from Molly Osborne and Jack Quatron, previewing their upcoming appearance in Benjamin Button, with book and lyrics by Jethro Compton. This, together with the version seen at the Southwark Playhouse should make anyone want to watch this incredible show.

Overall, this was an incredible evening filled with amazing talent. It is highly recommended for anyone pursuing a career on stage or those who simply love high-quality Sondheim performances. This event not only celebrated the brilliance of Sondheim's work but also shone a spotlight on the bright future of musical theatre.

This event was reviewed on the 9th June 2024 at the Sondheim Theatre, London.  For more information on the Stephen Sondheim Society visit: The Stephen Sondheim Society

Review written by Valentine Gale-Sides


Photo credit: David Ovenden

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