In all the years that I’ve been writing these blogs, one aspect of theatre which I’ve often returned to as a focal point is new musical theatre. I’ve always been an advocate for original work, believing that new shows from fresh talent is not only beneficial to the musical theatre industry, but indeed vital for its continual well-being in the years to come. There are many supporters of new work out there, both through the fans who enthusiastically follow up-and-coming writers, and those who work in the industry providing opportunities for their work to be seen/heard, and a platform given to the showcasing of new work should be both encouraged and shared, as widely as possible.
At the end of the month, those individuals with an interest in new writing will have the unique opportunity to experience some of the best new British musical theatre, while still in the infancy of the developmental process. The annual S&S Award is back for a third year running, once again celebrating new musical theatre with a special gala evening dedicated to this year’s winning shows with the aid of a top cast of West End performers.
The S&S Award is given to the best new unproduced musical of the year, as judged by a panel of distinguished producers, actors, directors and musicians. The winning writer/s are rewarded with the opportunity for a week’s developmental retreat, where they can work on the material with a professional cast, musical director and director in preparation for an industry showcase, which follows at a later date. During the gala event, an award is presented to the winner/s and extracts from the show are performed by the West End company.
The S&S Award 2014 goes to Tim Gilven for his show, Stay Awake, Jake. Performing excerpts from the winning entry is an exciting West End line-up which includes Sabrina Aloueche (Les Miserables, We Will Rock You), Julie Atherton (Avenue Q, Sister Act), Sarah Earnshaw (Spamalot, Wicked), Sandy Grigells (Carnaby Street, West End Heroes), Jennifer Hepburn (Taboo, Les Miserables), Hannah Jarrett-Scott (Midsummer Songs, Girl Meets Boy), Aidan Kelly (National’s Treasure Island, Once), Katrina Kleve (Once, Smokey Joe’s Cafe), Matt Rutherford (Love Beyond, The Hired Man), Victoria Serra (Love Story, Mamma Mia), Jos Slovick (Once, The Snow Queen), Vicki Lee Taylor (Urinetown, A Chorus Line), and Matt Wycliffe (The Commitments, Jersey Boys). The West End stars will also be performing excerpts from the two shows being celebrated in the Highly Commended category, which this year are Jabberwocky by Rebecca Applin and Susannah Pearse, and Van Winkle by Caroline Wigmore.
The S&S Award was inaugurated in 2012 by playwright/lyricist Warner Brown, then named The Sidney Brown Memorial Award in honour of his late father. Following the death of his mother, Sylvia, in February 2013, Warner renamed it as The S&S Award to commemorate both his beloved parents. This year’s gala event takes place on Sunday 23rd November 2014, returning once again to the popular London venue, the St James Theatre. The night is set to be hosted by Olivier Award winner David Bedella (Sweeney Todd, Jerry Springer The Opera), while fellow Olivier winner Nigel Harman (I Can’t Sing!, Shrek) will be in attendance to present the award. There will also be a special guest appearance from singer/songwriter Gwyneth Herbert. SimG Productions produces The S&S Award Gala 2014 in association Mercury Musical Development, directed by Simon Greiff and with musical direction by Richard Bates.
Events such as these are sorely needed. Unknown writers looking to be heard will always value and welcome encouragement from supportive fans, but in the highly competitive theatre industry, the chance to showcase their show and work closely with industry professionals in developing said show is one which doesn’t come along very often – opportunities are few and far between when you’re a struggling writer without a recognisable name such as Lloyd Webber to help open doors. The S&S Award really is the chance of a lifetime for a new musical theatre writer, and one hell of a jump start on the journey to get a concept show from page to stage.
By Julie Robinson: @missjulie25