The Musical Theatre Academy was selected as the School of the Year in The Stage 100 Awards 2012 – it’s no surprise why. With its freshly innovative approach to training and a roster of highly professional, talented students, the MTA is quickly gaining a reputation for itself as a ‘new force in drama training’. They have been invited to participate in a number of high profile events: supporting Katherine Jenkins at the London Palladium, performing (as tap dancing rhinos) onstage at the Hammersmith Apollo and recording the concept album of Craig Adams’ original musical Lift, to name a few. They’ve also been involved in cabarets, concerts and showcases all across London, most recently at the London debut of new composing duo Anderson and Petty. Through these, and my involvement with The Make A Difference Trust, I’ve had the chance to see a few of the MTA students in action and have never failed to be impressed by them. So when the school staged their annual revue at the Bridewell Theatre last week, the opportunity to witness all the students together in one setting was too good to pass up.
Something Old Something New was a four-day musical revue that, under the watchful eye of MTA founder/principal AnneMarie Lewis Thomas, showcased the abilities of the 18 First Year and 15 Second Year students currently training at the school. Staged by MTA associate Jack Gunn and with the accompaniment of a live band, it was a triumphant feat of accomplishment that inspired confidence in the future of musical theatre. Accompanied by the lovely Mark Petty of Anderson and Petty, we went along to the Saturday matinee performance. Having had the time to get over any of those first night nerves, the students appeared assured and full of self-possession, but most importantly, they also seemed to be having the time of their lives. It was particularly gratifying to see the First Years, having only been with the MTA last October, already looking so comfortable and capable in front of an audience. There were times when their inexperience peeked through, but that’s to be expected; to have come so far after just 19 weeks of training is something they and the school should be very proud of and, judging by the exceptional offering from the Second Year students, they’re only going to get better.
The Second Years are a tight, strong group of performers and there are a number of people there who really shine, but Cici Howell is a particularly bright young star. She has an outstanding voice, a prettily expressive face and dances with a delicate precision and grace; the full package. I also found my gaze falling on Laura Webb who, in addition to possessing a clear, melodic voice, is a natural talented dancer. It’s not just the girls who have been blessed with all the talent however. The names of Carl Douglas and Adam Jay price are definitely two to remember, but there are some truly great performers in the boys’ midst.
One of the things I most enjoyed about the revue is the wonderfully diverse material that was included. A selection process of which the students were heavily involved in turned up classic songs from musicals such as Stepping Out, Calamity Jane and the more on-trend The Book of Mormon, as well as some great tunes from some of the best up-and-coming new writers, such as Scott Alan, Michael Bruce and Laurence Mark Wythe. All too often you hear the same tributes to Sondheim, Lloyd Webber and so forth, so it was nice to see them go in a different direction. The boys’ performance of ‘Alter Boyz’, the stirring rendition of Jason Robert Brown’s ‘Song’s For A New World’, the ‘Hanky Panky’ tap-dancing and the hilarious send-up of ‘You’re In A Musical’ added a delightful element to the revue and the 33-strong group’s deliverance of the Jekyll and Hyde medley provided a brilliant end to the events.
The first group of MTA graduates are already making waves in the world of musical theatre and the school’s next generation are fast proving that they are going to be a force to be reckoned with too. Speaking to some of the students after the revue, it was clear just how passionate they are about what they’re doing and how much they all love being at the MTA. They are a superb bunch and the good name of the MTA is well worth all the positive buzz. There is a delicious aroma of talent surrounding this batch and the MTA is surely cooking up some huge stage stars for the future.
By Julie Robinson (@missjulie25)
Monday 19th March 2012