The Stephen Sondheim Society and Mercury Musical Developments today announce the West End gala of the 13th annual Stephen Sondheim Society Student Performer of the Year (SSSSPOTY) and the 12th anniversary of The Stiles + Drewe Prize. The 2019 competition is being staged at the Theatre Royal Haymarket on Sunday 9 June, hosted by two-time Olivier Award winner and star of the current revival of Follies at the National Theatre, Joanna Riding. Chris Hocking returns to direct the gala, with musical direction by Nigel Lilley, and a guest performance by 2018 SSSSPOTY winner Alex Cardall.

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 song by Stephen Sondheim, and a new musical theatre song written by members of Mercury Musical Developments. The performers are competing for the top prize of £1,000, judged by writer and broadcaster Edward Seckerson, with Julia McKenzie (six-time Olivier Award nominee and two-time winner, and Tony Award nominee), and Peter Polycarpou (currently starring in Man of La Mancha).

The Stiles + Drewe Prize supports and develops new musical theatre writing, recognising an outstanding song from a new musical, and is supported by The Entertainment Business, who said: “We’re delighted to be co-sponsoring the Best New Song prize for the third year running and to continue to support new musical writing”. 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 Nkeki Obi-Melekwe (currently starring as Tina in Tina The Musical).

Olivier Award-winning song-writing duo George Stiles and Anthony Drewe today said “We’ve had the biggest crop ever of entries for our Best New Song Prize this year. Thank you to all the writers who submitted a phenomenal 177 entries and congratulations to our 12 fabulous finalists. Together with MMD, we’re passionate about showcasing emerging Musical Theatre writing talent and we’re delighted to see material full of flair and panache.”

Craig Glenday, Chair of The Stephen Sondheim Society, also said “Stephen Sondheim has said that teaching is a sacred profession, so it’s a privilege to be able to honour this sentiment by supporting these talented students. SSSSPOTY gives these bright lights the chance to sing on a West End stage – and to work with an established Director and Musical Director – and it gives the audience the chance to say ‘We were there!’ when they first heard these stars of the future perform. Good luck to everyone involved!"

The Stiles + Drewe Prize Best New Song finalists are:

Against The Tide – Benjamin Till
Aunt Betty Always Said – Finn Anderson
Dead In The Water – Zoe Roberts, Natasha Hodgson, David Cumming & Felix Hagan
Enough Already – RC Staab & Seth Bisen-Hersh
Marvin – Vikki Stone
Miracles – Robyn Grant, Daniel Foxx & Pippa Cleary
My Thing – Ben Glasstone & Poppy Burton-Morgan
Self Checkout – Amir Shoenfeld
Silver – Jude Obermuller & David Gomez
The Scullion’s Candle – Carl Miller & Chris Ash
The Tease – Tim Connor
Words/Amazing – Theo Jamieson

The Stephen Sondheim Society Student Performer of the Year finalists are:
Samantha Bingley - Brunel University
Jamie McCraken Bogyo - RADA (Royal Academy of Dramatic Art)
Cameron Burt - Guildford School of Acting
Louise Cowling - The Hammond
Paige Fenlon - Bird College
Ahmed Hamad - Arts Educational Schools
Niamh James - Royal Central School of Speech & Drama
Lily Kerhoas - Royal Academy of Music
Oisín Nolan-Power - Royal Academy of Music
Lucy Reynolds - Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama
Stuart Thompson - LAMDA (London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art)
Aliza Vakil - Royal Conservatoire of Scotland

Previous winners of the Stiles + Drewe Prize include Jim Barne and Kit Buchan (The Season, which will receive a full production at Royal & Derngate and New Wolsey in 2019), Tim Connor, Adam Wachter, Darren Clarke and Rhys Jennings (The Wicker Husband which was showcased in the 2018 NAMT Festival of New Musicals in New York). Past finalists of the student performer prize have included Hollywood star Taron Egerton, Tony Award winner Cynthia Erivo and Alex Young (Carrie in Carousel at ENO, Young Sally in Follies, and Sally Smith in Me and My Girl at Chichester).

Joanna Riding's theatre credits include Follies (National Theatre); Flowers For Mrs Harris (Chichester); Romantics Anonymous (Shakespeare’s Globe); Calendar Girls (Phoenix, Olivier Award nominee); My Fair Lady (Drury Lane, Olivier Award winner); Witches of Eastwick (Drury Lane, Olivier Award nominee); for the National Theatre: Carousel (Olivier Award winner), Guys and Dolls (Olivier Award nominee), A Little Night Music and Oh, What A Lovely War!; Pajama Game (Chichester and Shaftesbury); Stephen Ward (Aldwych); Umbrellas of Cherbourg and Lend Me A Tenor (Gielgud); Billy Elliot (Victoria Palace); Blithe Spirit (Bath Royal, tour and Savoy); for Manchester Royal Exchange: Hobson’s Choice (Manchester Evening Standard Award nominee), The Happiest Days of Our Lives and An Ideal Husband; Playing For Time (Salisbury Playhouse); Me And My Girl (Adelphi); Martin Guerre (West Yorkshire Playhouse and tour); Lady Be Good (Regents Park); Wizard of Oz, My Mother Said I Never Should and Merry Wives of Windsor (Chichester); and two pantomime seasons at Hackney Empire. Her television credits include Where the Heart Is, Stella, Holby City, Doctors, Heartbeat, Midsomer Murders, Casualty and Jeeves and Wooster. And for film, Into the Woods.

Presented in association with Fane Productions as part of the ‘Sunday Encounters at the Haymarket’ season.

Theatre Royal Haymarket
18 Suffolk St, London SW1Y 4HT

Box Office: 0207 930 8800

Twitter: @stilesanddrewe

Ticket prices: £17.40-£47.50
Running time: 2 hours