What is West End Calling?
West End Calling is the biggest national musical theatre competition, looking for talent new stars. This is the third year of the competition and it’s getting bigger and better. It consists of two categories, Juniors: Ages 8-15 and Seniors 16-21. Before getting to the final, the contestants took part in 3 prior round: Auditions, which were held in London, Brighton and Manchester, then the Heats, and then the Semi-Final.
What were they competing for?
The prize was phenomenal and something that many aspiring musical theatre performers dream of: a place at summer school of one of the most prestigious places to train in musical theatre, Arts Ed. With a choice of doing workshops, audition prep or putting a musical on in one week. What a prize!!!
Layout of the final:
There were two separate shows, one for the juniors and one for the seniors. Each contestant had to sing one musical theatre song of their choice, accompanied by a live band. I must say I loved the fact the band were on stage and clearly visible, I find that with in the musical world the musicians are not appreciated enough. The band consisted of Tom Lees on Keys, on Bass was Jamie Alexander Ross, and Matt Billups on drums.
Both shows were hosted by Oscar Conlon-Morrey and he was absolutely fantastic. He opened each show with an incredible performance, yet his jokes throughout the shows were definitely the highlight.
The judging panel consisted of 3 of the musical theatre world’s biggest and admired stars: Paul Wilkins, Danielle Hope, and Nathan Amzi.
What the judges were looking for in a winner:
I was lucky enough to have the chance to properly speak to Paul Wilkins and Danielle Hope about what they were looking for in a winner.
Paul: ‘I want to see what’s going on in peoples stomachs, not faces. Making a gut decision, in the moment, making impulsive decisions. Understanding your words as your character, empathise and live as the character’
Danielle: ‘What I’m looking for is a connection to the song and the lyrics and really good sense of musicality and transitions and what that means emotionally and how you can really create an art in making your side of the journey and with the understanding of the character in the song and knowing that you can act songs not just sing them’
*Can’t express how hard it was not to completely fan girl when talking to Danielle*
I didn’t manage to speak to Nathan personally, but at the beginning of the shows he mentioned how storytelling and taking the audience on your journey is the most important factor for him.
Kaiah: Good Morning Baltimore, Hairspray
Isabel: On My Own, Les Miserable
Nicole: Carrie, Carrie
Mia: Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again, Phantom of the Opera
Mark: Electricity, Billy Elliot
Naomi: She Used To Be Mine, Waitress
Lottie: Burn, Hamilton
Megan: Waving Through A Window, Dear Evan Hansen
Amelia: Live Out Loud, A Little Princess
Olivia: No Good Deed, Wicked
Phoebe: I Know It’s Today, Shrek
Gracie: This is Me, The Greatest Showman
Emeli: Summer in Ohio, The Last Five Years
Georgia: Gimme Gimme, Thoroughly Modern Millie
Molly: In My Dreams, Anastasia
Megan: How Did We Come To This, The Wild Party
Alice: No Good Deed, Wicked
Aiden: What Is It About Her, The Wild Party
Anna: Watch What Happens, Newsies
Stephanie: I Can Do Better Than That, The Last Five Years
Charlotte: Say The Word, The Unauthorised Autobiography of Samantha Brown
Kassidy: I’m Here, The Colour Purple
Bryony-Rose: She Used To Be Mine, Waitress
Emily: Maybe, Miss Saigon
Make sure you have good diction
Make the song your own, don’t copy original cast recordings for fancy riffs, do what suits your voice
Don’t get caught up in showing off with unnecessary riffs, the story telling and emotion is far more important
Make sure all movement has a purpose, don’t move for the sake of moving
Make sure you follow through all movements to the ends of your fingertips, commit to the movement, don’t just do it half heartedly
Make impulsive and current choices, don’t plan your movements the line before
Eyeline is crucial, pick points of focus, don’t keeps moving eyes, yet acknowledge your peripherals not just the centre.
Light and shade is 10000x better than belting the whole song, and being able to have energy in moments of both light and shade is a very impressive skill
Moments of still are so effective
You don’t need to rely on props like chairs, your voice is good enough
Tell the story, show emotion in your face/eyes/physicality, don’t be afraid to sound ‘ugly’, convey the emotion in your voice, but let the audience do the feeling for you, give them an insight in to your characters sadness but give them legroom to imagine the rest.
Comic timing is a very effective skill
Even in sad songs, show the light and smile where necessary, as it shows more depth to the character
Enjoy what you do, make sure that radiates, have energy, your eyes should show your passion and love for being on the stage
Walk on to the stage as your character, don’t just become the character because the music has started
Engage the audience
Connect with the lyrics, understand them and give them meaning
You need to be able to ground yourself, so wearing stilettos may not be the best option
It doesn’t matter if you mess up/forget lyrics, it’s all about the recovery
Story, story, story, it’s all about the story/acting/characterisation/journey
My personal favourite bit of feedback was when Danielle Hope acknowledged that No Good Deed is the ‘vocal marathon’ in Wicked, and is a much more testing song than Defying Gravity.
How the judges managed to pick a winner within 10 minute is beyond me, each and everyone of those finalists were so unbelievably talented. Every single contestant in the junior show gave me goosebumps and chills as their voices were simply incredible. Each finalist should be so proud of themselves for getting to the final and doing such a wonderful performance, they are all winners in there own way (especially Stephanie, as it was her first time EVER performing on stage, and her performance was so organic and naturally effortless… I wish my first time on stage was as good as hers). I can see all of the finalists being successful and making their dreams of being West End stars come true!
But of course there could only be one Junior and one Senior winner…
Junior Runner Up: Nicole
Senior runners up: Aiden and Bryony-Rose
Both very deserving winners, I wish them the best of luck for their future careers in the industry and hope they have so much fun and make the most of their week summer school at Arts Ed.
Overall I had such a great night at the West End Calling 2018 Grand Final, it was such a wonderful atmosphere and I loved every second. It was such an honour to witness such talent. The Other Palace Theatre is such a lovely venture as a whole, even to just sit and have a gin between shows it was such a nice setting, I can’t wait to return in July to watch Heathers! I honestly can’t thank Alex and the team for giving me this opportunity, I’m beyond grateful. I’d love to come along again next year and get involved in more events like this because I think now I finally know that this is what I want to do with my life. Being inside a theatre, whether it’s on stage or in the audience as a theatre blogger/press is where I belong!!!
To read more of Beth's Blog, visit her site https://bubblybethblog.wordpress.com