West End Stage set for new stars


SWL takes a look at The Royal Academy of Music where budding performers prepare for the West End Stage.


By Joe Morgan 

The Royal Academy of Music can be found on the edge of the West End.

 It is a proud building, nestled within the smart lanes and shading trees famous in Kensington and Marylebone.  

This place is home to vocalists and instrumentalists all training to make their talents shine, all hoping to make it in an extremely competitive industry.

Principal Jonathan Freeman-Attwood says the college’s aim is to realise the potential of every musician there.  

Rachel Tucker, a graduate, spent years toiling and touring before appearing on BBC programme I’d Do Anything – the Andrew Lloyd Webber show to cast the role for Nancy in Oliver!

While she was eliminated in the semi-finals, she went onto greener pastures, playing the lead role Elphaba in Wicked.  

Wicked won the Olivier award for Most Popular Show last year.

Both currently unemployed actress Sarah-Jane Price, 24 and Wimbledon Theatre Front of House steward Ifan Gwilym-Jones, 24, are from South West London. 

They graduated in 2010 on the Musical Theatre course previously attended by Rachel.

Sarah-Jane said “Don’t do it if you’re only doing it because it’s kind of fun. 

“Do it if you wholeheartedly, passionately believe you cannot do anything else for the rest of your life.”

Students tackle vocal training, dance training including jazz and tap, constant rehearsals and master classes with the professionals.  

Ifan said: “You don’t realise it’s like sports training. The more you do it, the better you get.

“Even if you don’t actually feel the results of getting better, you are.”  

Both Sarah-Jane and Ifan say one of their highlights was meeting the legendary composer Stephen Sondheim.

But while the nine-month course is tough, it is nothing compared to facing the industry.  

Sarah-Jane, a mezzo-soprano with agency Maitland Management, and Ifan, a high baritone with Billy Marsh Drama, have auditioned for a variety of West End roles but struggle to be seen.

Sarah-Jane said: “If you think about a show that’s recasting and there’s three members leaving, there will be a good few hundred people to see for those three roles.  

“Then you have to fit in the costume, have the right look, and have the right voice.”

As audiences flock to talent shows like X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent, many singers wonder whether to audition. 

Ifan said: “It’s a really competitive business, and the more you get the chance to be seen the better.”

The contestants on Andrew Lloyd Webber programmes, like Rachel Tucker, often have successful careers despite not winning the show.  

Sarah-Jane said: “They can’t just be a one-off act; they have to sustain eight shows a week.

“You can’t do that if you’re just there as a gimmick. This is why celebrities don’t last long because they can’t sing it.” 

Although both may be on the edge now, in ten years time Ifan said it would be a dream come true to end up working in Broadway.

Sarah-Jane said: “I don’t care what I’m doing in ten years as long as I’m on that stage performing.”

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