This week West End Experience and Wolverhampton Grand Theatre are providing local youngsters with the opportunity to rehearse and perform like a West End professional. The week-long summer school really is the ultimate West End musical theatre experience with with top industry professionals visiting cities all over the country sharing their knowledge and expertise with aspiring performers.
The programme is co-ordinated by Craig Whiteley who graduated from Mountview Academy with a 1st class BA Hons degree. Craig played Doc in CR7 for the BBC and made his West End debut in the 50th anniversary year of The Mousetrap playing Giles and Trotter. He then went on to play Eddie in Blood Brothers both on the national tour and in the West End. The dance is overseen by Daniela Valvano who trained at Bird College. Her recent credits include understudying the roles of Magenta, Columbia and Janet in the UK tour of The Rocky Horror Show, as well as in Singapore. Daniela was also Carmen Diaz in the Dutch national tour of Fame and Miss Carmichael in the world premiere of The Thorn Birds, a musical.
Leading today's workshop for the youngsters was Zizi Strallen from the original London cast of Rock Of Ages.
Zizi in the original cast of Rock Of Ages with Shayne Ward. (Photo by Bettina Strenske)
At 10am the older students sang through "Here I Go Again" - a song from the musical which they had learnt earlier with musical director Charlotte Fane. Some had solos, others provided backing vocals but the voices filled the room with rich harmonies - a powerful sound! One thing was clear, they were all very enthusiastic. After learning the routine from Zizi the students quickly put everything together towards a pretty polished performance. Reminding them that they were in an 80's rock bar, Zizi had them strumming air guitars all over the room with "rock star swagger" as the original choreographer called it.
It was soon the younger group's turn to sing Don't Stop Believing for Zizi. As before, choreography from the show was given to them and within the hour there was another finished routine. The students had a natural ability for picking up their direction. Energy and focus came from everyone - a dedicated team working towards a concert on Sunday 11th August.
Grace Gull from Codsall is now taking part for her fourth year: "It's absolutely amazing. The West End Experience has been running in Wolverhampton for four years and I've been to all of them. This year has to be the biggest and best one yet. It's more challenging and even more demanding - which is great! My favourite workshop so far has been the A Chorus Line with Rebecca Giacopazzi who is dance captain for the show at the London Palladium. We learnt the routine for I Hope I Get it. As well as this week's experience I am in the theatre's Grand Circle Adult Choir which launched this year and I help at the Grand Ambition youth choir which is now in its third successful year. I'm really looking forward to the show on Sunday, I can't wait to perform the A Chorus Line section and sing some harmonies with the professional performers in the Circle Of Life!"
Another fabulous day at @WestEndEx and a lovely workshop with @ZiziStrallen :) #rockofages
— Grace Gull (@GraceGull) August 8, 2013
Too excited for Sunday, performing along side West End performers!! @WolvesGrand @WestEndEx #Stagey #WestEnd
— Daniel Langford (@DanLangford93) August 8, 2013
Grand Theatre Education Officer Louise Bent commented: “West End Summer School is now in its third year at the Grand and it gets bigger and better every year! It’s the most amazing opportunity for local young people to work with the professionals behind some of London’s biggest musicals. Everyone has a great time and talks about it for weeks afterwards - it really is the highlight of the summer for our young theatre fans!
Co-ordinator Craig Whiteley added: "This is my 3rd year of bringing the West End Summer School to Wolverhampton Grand. It is my favourite date in the diary as the kids here are so respectful. They eat, sleep and breath theatre. I previously performed at The Grand with Blood Brothers and from the hundreds of venues on tour it was - without a doubt - the best atmosphere so I just love coming back. Our aim is to feature every child in our concert alongside the stars and we treat the students like professionals which helps us achieve a fantastic final product. The course builds confidence and is a lot of fun. It shows the students how difficult and how rewarding a career in professional theatre can be. You work hard and you get results, you get rewarded!"
Students at @WolvesGrand . Some of the most hard working, disciplined young performers we've had the pleasure of working with! Thank you!
— West End Experience (@WestEndEx) August 8, 2013
You can book tickets to see the concert at the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre that culminates the hard work by the whole team. Featuring songs from The Lion King, A Chorus Line, Oliver, Rock Of Ages sung by the students and industry professionals. The concert is on Sunday 11 August at 7pm and you can book tickets here.
For more information about the fantastic scheme of West End Experience, visit their website here.
You can also find information about the theatre's Get-In! youth scheme with activities all year round, special ticket offers and exclusive opportunities here.