One of the youth theatre’s brightest stars competes in prestige music competition

By Philip Irwin in Local People

One of the brightest stars of the Bridgend Youth Theatre (BYT) – Joe Wiltshire Smith – will be on stage this weekend in a West End Gala, competing for The ‘Stephen Sondheim Society Student Performer of the Year’.

Joe left the BYT four years ago, after taking the lead in shows such as Phantom of the Opera. He was also the lead in Porthcawl Comprehensive School’s Jesus Christ Superstar, and was a stunning Jean Valjean in the school’s Les Miserables.

Joe is now in his final year with the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama (RWCMD), and it was tutors from the college who put him forward for the Sondheim competition, which is now 11 years old and has acquired a seriously prestigious reputation.

Joe told the GEM:?“I travelled to London for the audition, and we were asked to do just one song.

“I was thrilled when I found out that I had made the final 12.”

The 12 finalists are from performing arts schools around the country and they will be singing at the No?l Coward Theatre on Sunday, June 11 at 3pm, hosted by Olivier Award winner Clive Rowe.

This annual competition, co-produced by The Stephen Sondheim Society and Mercury Musical Developments, sees 12 of the top student performers from musical theatre and drama schools across the UK each perform a classic song by Stephen Sondheim and a new musical theatre song, written by members of Mercury Musical Developments.

Many of Sondheim’s songs really stretch a singer – in various ways. However, Joe chose one of the toughest of them all – ‘The God-Why-Don’t-You-Love-Me Blues’, sung by the character Buddy in Follies.

It’s not easy to explain just how tough this song is, but you can check out what is probably the definitive version by Mandy Patinkin on the following link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mX2sG9yGS7Y

(And yes, that is Saul from Homeland).

Joe sang the song in his audition, and will be singing it again this Sunday.

The Stephen Sondheim Society chairman Craig Glenday said: “This annual event has become a highlight in the musical theatre calendar, showcasing the very best students from the UK’s top drama and musical-theatre schools.

“These talented young men and women are the stars of the future, and we’re excited to give them this opportunity to perform on a West End stage – most of them for the first time.

“Sondheim himself talks about teaching as a sacred profession, and The Stephen Sondheim Society is committed to supporting and encouraging students in all aspects of musical theatre. Good luck to all 12!”

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