@westendproducer is as a Twitter sensation, a spoof account hitting remarkably close to the mark parodying a famous West End impresario. But softly ribbing the musical theatre community wasn’t enough for the man (or woman) who is keeping their real identity under wraps. Using his Twitter fame he’s launched a talent search for future West End leading men and ladies.
After more than 650 budding Michael Balls and Elaine Paiges submitted videos over YouTube, industry judges and the Twitter-using public whittled them down to ten finalists, all performing on a West End stage in a bid to win the big prize. Originally the whole contest was to remain on Twitter – but producer Tony Green convinced @WestEndProducer that this needed a proper finale.
Songs of Praise host Aled Jones (please don’t mention The Snowman) was the perfect host: witty and self-deprecating, and keeping a polite if partisan crowd enthused. An X Factor-style judging panel was also on hand, comprising musical director Mike Dixon, agent Gemma Lowy Hamilton, leading lady Louise Dearman, and proper West End producer (and secret millionnaire) David King. They found themselves ensconced in boxes, pontificating Statler & Waldorf style on the evening’s proceedings. And of course the man himself had a prime spot (and a Twitter-connected laptop) ensuring he could give his own running commentary on the proceedings. Don’t worry – he maintained the mystery thanks to a frankly freaky rubber mask.
There were some stand-out performances. Ben Vivian Jones (@benvivianjones) did a fantastic performance of ‘Stranger In This World’ from Boy George’s Taboo (soon to return to stage in Brixton), and 18-year-old last-minute stand-in Elliot Clay (@elliotclay) impressed with ’Something’s Coming’ from West Side Story. For the girls, Alexandra Da Silva (@alexdasilva27) is definitely one to watch – her performance of ‘The Man That Got Away’ really showed star quality.
While the votes were counted the audience was treated to stunning performances by singers from Associated Studios – a definite display of future stars – and a preview of 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, soon to be performed at the Edinburgh Fringe by Patch of Blue Theatre Company.
The final winners, Felipe Bejerano (@felipebejerano) and Kara Bayer (@karabayer), got the chance to duet with West End stars Jon Lee and Kerry Ellis, no stranger to the talent show herself. And then a rousing finale of ‘One Day More’ from Les Miserables, when Kara really shone singing the part of Eponine.
All in all this was a delight of an evening for any true musical theatre fan. For a first attempt there were certainly teething problems – not every judging panel needs to have someone emulating ‘nasty’ Nigel Lithgow or Simon Cowell. But this celebration of young musical theatre could become an annual fixture on the West End – and maybe Cameron Mackintosh may even turn up himself (unless, of course, @westendproducer is really him).