REVIEW: S&S Award Gala 2015 (St James Theatre)
First things first, the S&S Award is an award given for the best new yet-to-be-produced musical of the year as judged by a panel of industry experts. The winners are awarded a professional mentorship for the coming year as well as a retreat during which their musical will be heavily workshopped and rigorously prepared for the stage. The yearly S&S Award Gala previews a recent (newly workshopped and perfected) winner, then gives the audience a glimpse into the three shortlisted shows of the year and culminates with the winning names being dramatically produced from a golden envelope.
Even though Sundays Gala felt distinctly like an industry event (industry name-dropping and inside jokes included) it was really above all else an exciting wonderful night of musical theatre.
The night was not short stage celebrities- Olivier winner Nigel Harman hosted the Awards Gala with a ‘laissez faire’ method of hosting that was both fun and engrossing and celebrated theatre actress Janie Deen presented the award with a genuine and heartfelt speech. Meanwhile the cast was led by two-time Olivier award Nominee and brilliant singer Charlotte Wakefield.
Forest Boy, the 2013 winner of this prestigious award, started the Gala off on a high note. Forest Boy is inspired by real life events and tells the story of a boy who appeared in front of German authorities in Berlin one day seeking help and claiming to have lived in the forest with his father for the past five years. Forest Boy has a great cast, refreshingly diverse music and good singing (with especially lovely vocals from Anja Ritterbusch). It’s a tale of deceit and imagination, positioned against the backdrop of modern social media obsessed society, which takes pleasure in the misfortune of others.
The evening continued with a glimpse into After Lydia (written by Christine Denniston and Gwyneth Herbert) the story of a woman struggling with leukemia and the selflessness of not wanting her narcissistic husband to find out about her disease. This was followed by this years winner (drumroll please) the musical titled Here, written by dynamic duo Kate Marlais and Alex Young. Here explores a period in the life of German Artist Kurt Schwitters, a time he spent living on a farm in Cumbria in 1943. The final piece of the night was The Last Word by Brett Sullivan, a musical about scrabble, friendship and loveable underdogs.
There were too many good actors present to name and too many plot lines to summarise but I can safely say the following things- the musicians played very well, the musical direction was impeccable, the singing was wonderful and there was a distinct buzz in the audience, the type you feel when you can sense that are you are witnessing something unique and special, after all the S&S award Gala is a night of musical theatre that will never be repeated in the same way again.
Attending the S&S Award Gala is like attending an exclusive industry event that somehow isn’t invite only. You can buy your way in, rub shoulders with some of the greats, get the inside scoop on the future of musical theatre and soak up some West End Talent for a non-West-End price.
Reviewed by Jacqueline Silvester
Photo: Ollie Boito Photography