The Stephen Sondheim Society Student Performer of the Year 2009 / The Stiles & Drewe Best Song of 2009 Award

Aaron Lee Lambert (Royal Scottish Academy of Music & Drama)
Bounce – Talent
John Farndon & Howard Gosling
The Day I First Saw You

Hara Yannas (LAMDA)
Into the Woods – Moments in the Wood
Eric Angus & Paul James
Police Story – The Perfect Stranger

Cynthia Erivo (RADA)
A Little Night Music – The Miller’s Song
Dick Walter
The Island – Yesterday’s Child

Brett Lee Roberts (Birmingham School of Acting)
Company – Multitudes of Amys
Paul Graham Brown
Bonnie & Clyde – Thirty-Two Bucks

Lisa Lynch (Mountview Academy)
Into the Woods – Steps of the Palace
Youn Young Park & Susannah Pearse
Strip Away the Frosting

James Smoker (Royal Academy of Music)
Evening Primrose – If You Can Find Me, I’m Here
Stuart Wood
Frank’s Closet – To be Perfectly Frank

Oliver McCarthy (University of Sheffield)
Company – Happily Ever After
Denise Wright & Chris Burgess
Losing the Plot

Francesca Leyland (Arts Educational)
Anyone Can Whistle – See What It Gets You
Joe & Jim Graham
Peter Pan and the Fountain of Eternal Youth – Let’s Pretend

Alyn Hawke (Arts Educational)
Anyone Can Whistle – Everybody Says Don’t
Andrew Brinded, William Christopherson & Tamara Samuels
Election Idol – Whatever It Takes

Amy Payne (Guildhall School)
Passion – I Wish I Could Forget You
Olly Ashmore
Wake Up TV

Michael Peavoy (RADA)
Sunday in the Park with George – Finishing the Hat
Matt Gimblett & Julian Chenery
Shakespeare 4 Kids’ Hamlet – To be a Man

Laura Harrison (Central School)
Sweeney Todd – The Worst Pies in London
Alexander S. Bermange
Odette – My Prince

Rosemary Ashe (Compere)

Nigel Lilley – Musical Director
Bill Deamer – Director & Choreographer
Doug Pinchin & Richard Morris – Producers

Presented by the Stephen Sondheim Society & Mercury Musical Developments

The Stephen Sondheim Society Student Performer of the Year 2009
Edward Seckerson (Chair)
David Babani
Richard Balcombe
Kim Criswell
Stuart Piper

The Stiles & Drewe Best Song of 2009 Award
George Stiles & Anthony Drewe

Reviewed by: Michael Darvell

Reviewed: 31 May, 2009
Venue: Playhouse Theatre, London

This is the third year of the Stephen Sondheim Society Student Competition and the second year of the Stiles & Drewe Best Song Award. When the Sondheim showcase was mooted, Sondheim himself asked if it could include the work of upcoming composers and lyricists. The standard here was extremely high.

Edward Seckerson listened initially to 44 students singing the same number of Sondheim songs in one day. The final twelve students sang two songs, one by Sondheim and one by relatively unknown composers and lyricists. The new songs were chosen blind by the long-time-successful music-theatre writing team of George Stiles and Anthony Drewe. They both then chose what seemed good and workable for this Finals show.

Rosemary Ashe was an ideal compere. She kept things on a light footing, telling jokes and putting the students and the audience at their ease, even singing a song about Sondheim, adeptly put together from some of the titles of the nearly 800 songs he has written. The entire company began the show with ‘The Ballad of Sweeney Todd’, which grabbed immediately and took one straight into the melodrama.

Aaron Lee Lambert gave ‘Talent’ – a typical Sondheim number, with rolling piano notes underscoring the main melody – powerful voice, which was also well-judged and ably demonstrated in ‘The Day I First Saw You’, a song about a Gainsborough painting of the Duchess of Devonshire, stolen by Victorian master-criminal Adam Worth (the inspiration for Conan Doyle’s Moriarty).

Hara Yannas did a nicely spooky version of ‘Moments in the Wood’. ‘The Perfect Stranger’ allowed her to act as well as sing. An affecting version of ‘The Miller’s Son’ from Cynthia Erivo followed and then was heard in the most convincing new song of the day, ‘Yesterday’s Child’, from an updated spin on “The Tempest”.

Complete with actions, James Smoker’s performance of ‘If You Can Find Me, I’m Here’ was easy on the ear. The new song – ‘To be Perfectly Frank’, by Stuart Wood – finds the eponymous hero on the eve of his civil partnership ceremony wondering about his identity when acting out his Burlington Bertie pastiche (a man playing a woman playing a man!).

Oliver McCarthy seemed a little nervous in his delivery of ‘Happily Ever After’ (a cut song from “Company”) but improved in his other song, ‘Losing the Plot’, a spin on the tales of Scheherazade. Alyn Hawke sung ‘Whatever It Takes’ in which politics and “The X Factor” collide to hilarious effect. Amy Payne sang a plangent version of ‘I Wish I Could Forget You’ and was in possession of the strongest, clearest voice of the evening. However, ‘Wake Up TV’, a comedy patter-song about a morning-television hostess with drink and marital problems, was too fast to catch and appreciate every word.

Michael Peavoy performed a very strong and earnest version of ‘Finishing the Hat’ in addition to ‘To be a Man’ in which the Prince of Denmark ponders his plight. Finally, Laura Harrison cheered everybody with ‘The Worst Pies in London’ and ‘My Prince’, a take on Swan Lake.

James Smoker was given an honourable mention but the winning singer was Michael Peavoy, who received a trophy and a cheque for £1,000.00. Kim Criswell explained that it was because Michael had sung with such intensity and passion, a requirement often necessary for Sondheim performances. The winning songwriter was Olly Ashmore and he received £500.00.

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