On Sunday 12th of May I was generously invited to the Grand Final of West End Calling. I had previously known about the competition since my friend attended the final last year so I was very excited to see what I was in for.
What is it?
The contestants come all around the country as the first stages of the auditions held in 7 cities around the country and performed in front of a panel of West End performers. And during the Grand Final of West End Calling they perform one song to a completely new panel of judges, previous judges have included Danielle Hope, Paul Wilkins, Jamie Lambert and Lauren Samuels.
This years judges were the two leads of hit West End show, Aladdin (Prince Edward Theatre), Matthew Croke (Aladdin) and Courtney Reed (Princess Jasmine). The panel was completed by Heathers royalty, Sophie Issacs. However, today they definitely weren’t the envy of any of us having such a difficult decision to make picking the winners.
I was also lucky enough to catch up with them at the end of the night and ask them why a competition such as this is so important for young people and the West End community.
“I just think it’s amazing for us to witness such amazing talent and for everyone in the same age group to experience the talent that ewe have all across the country is an amazing this to see.”
“Tonight, West End Calling is so important because of these people that want to be in the West End or do this kind of thing in the industry anything that they want to do and want to see other people that want to do this type of thing. I brings out a healthy competeetaive side of the industry but also the experience that they get that West End Calling give is just incredible. If I was their age and had something like this to go to I would be the first one to enter. It’s such a good experience for them all.”
‘Tonight is just so important because you’re giving the youths such an opportunity to get in front of some working professionals and get out and perform in front of a wonderful, loving audience who’s really rooting for them and to see where their journey goes next.”
From Left to Right: Matthew Croke, Courtney Reed, Oscar Conlon-Morrey and Sophie Issacs
The Grand Finals!
The Grand Finals were hosted at The Other Palace. The theatre home of shows such as Heathers, Eugenius, Toast and will be hosting the UK Premiere of Falsettos.
The Grand Final is split into two groups, the Junior Final (under 16s) and the Senior Final (Over 16s) and have thirteen contestants each.
Both shows were hosted by Oscar Conlon-Morrey who effortlessly improvised with humour and ease. I was also lucky to speak to him after the show and ask him why he enjoyed hosting the final so much.
“It’s always and absolute joy because the amount of passion they bring to the stage is incredible. This year in particular was excessive talent that we have not seen before. They were incredibly genuine, truthful performers. Lot of really exciting, new and interesting vocal qualities and style that I haven’t seen before and I genuinely think that every single one of them could have very successful careers in the industry.”
In both of the finals, the standard of the performances delivered were out of this world, however, there were a few stand out performances for myself in each of the Finals.
The Junior Finals!
In the Junior Finals, Maya Rugen who performed ‘I Love Play Rehearsal’ from Be More Chill was the first one to stand out for me. As someone who is not very familiar with the show, her performance of the song made me very interested in sitting down and listening to the soundtrack.
In addition Phoebe Maddison with who sung the song ‘Quiet’ by Jonathan Reid Gealt. Again, I was not familiar with the song, but she really invested me in the song and her story telling, in addition, her voice is insane!
Sasha Roberts broke my (and everyone else in the audience) heart with a stunning rendition of ‘Words Fail’ from Dear Evan Hansen. As such a popular song from such a current musical, is such a risky move however, it totally paid off with acting and vocals at a sensational level for his age.
Bibi Simpson took the competition to a different level with her rendition of ‘Green Finch and Linnet Bird’ from Sweeney Todd: Demon Barber of Fleet Street. It was the only performance of that type so it would typically stand out however, the song is a personal favourite of mine and her voice is so beautiful that I could listen to it all day. I could see her playing roles such as Christine Daae and Cosette, she has a beautiful, classic soprano voice.
3rd Place in this Round was given to Charlotte Waller with a show-stopping rendition of ‘Dying Ain’t So Bad’ From Bonnie and Clyde
2nd Place of this round was given to Sasha Roberts for ‘Words Fail’ from Dear Evan Hansen.
1st Place of this round was won by Phoebe Maddison who sung ‘Quiet’ by Jonathan Reid Gealt.
The Senoir Finals
The second round included performers from the age 16 and up. Opening the show, and setting the standard really high, was Amelia Wilkins with ‘Out Here On My Own’ from the musical Fame. The performance to me felt so intimate and personal so was immediately a stand out one for me.
Ashley Hartley performed a stunning rendition of ‘Stars’ from Les Miserables. As the song is in my Top 3 of all time favourite musical theatre songs, I was anxious to hear his rendition, and I was not disappointed! The judges remarked that they could close their eyes and believe that that was the actual actor playing Javert and I couldn’t agree more. I can’t wait to see Ashley performing the same song at the Queen’s in years to come. In addition, his acting was so strong, despite the lack of costume and context, you would know exactly who he was playing. It was a stunning performance.
The next stand out performance to me came even before it was performed. When I saw the words ‘Megan Lapper Memory- CATS’ in the programme. I might have had a little heart attack. It’s a very ambitious song to sing, even for the most trained singers. Although I have never seen the show Cats, ‘Memory’ is an iconic musical theatre song, my Mam’s favourite and my eldest cat is named after the character who sings it. Yes, my cat is called Grizabella. I couldn’t help by feel Megan had given herself a massive challenge… Challenge? She flew through the song with so much ease, a powerful belt and an amazing outfit on a tiger print variety in homage to the show.
In addition, another song that really stood out to me as very ambitious to sing was ‘Rose’s Turn’ from the musical Gypsy. However, Megan Keaveny Brough the house down with her performance both vocally and physically.
3rd Place was given to Bryon-Rose Brookman for her portrayal of ‘Lost in The Brass’ from Band Geeks.
2nd Place went to Megan Lapper for ‘Memory’ from Cats.
1st Place went to Serafina Bird for ‘Wait a Bit’ from Just So.
Although I have not mentioned each competitor by name in this post, doesn’t mean I didn’t appreciate and enjoy each and every performance. I can see them all standing on all the West End stages, leading the shows. I can guarantee everyone that I see that the future of the West End is in safe hands.
In addition, it’s so nice that there is a competition like this out there for aspiring performers, I wish I had known about West End calling when I was an aspiring performer because I would have applied for it, and got all of my friends in musical theatre to have done so as well!
I can’t help but feel incredibly lucky that Alex was kind enough to invite us. The work that he is doing for these aspiring performers is astonishing. I really can’t thank him enough Even a week later finshing up this blog, I can’t help but feel incredibly lucky seeing the names of future West End shows performing in front of my very eyes, already trained to perfection, so in a few years time, they’re going to be unstoppable!
I you would like to get involved in West End Calling 2020, auditions for entry are now open. Please check out http://www.westendcalling.co.uk for more information. And for all I know, I might see one (or a few) of you there next year…