Mark Puddle launched West End Stage in 2006, aiming to become the UK’s leading theatre summer school. His students take part in a week long course of drama, singing and dance classes led by West End stars. They finish by making their own West End debut in a showcase at Her Majesty’s Theatre.
This year, 1,000 West End Stage students have teamed up with Kerry Ellis, star of the West End and Broadway, for a special recording of A Million Dreams from the hit film, The Greatest Showman. The single will be recorded for charity, with all proceeds going to the NSPCC’s Childline service (0800 1111), which is there to give young people a voice when no one else is listening.
1. This year marks the 10,000th West End Stage student. What is it about your theatre Summer school that makes it such a hit?
It has been a very exciting year for us at West End Stage! For the past thirteen years we have offered a totally unique course; during their week with us students are taught by West End stars, are taken to see a West End show and, if that isn’t exciting enough, get to perform on a West End stage in their very own showcase.
2. In a previous interview you once said, “When you own your own theatre company, problem-solving must be one of your best skills”. What’s the most frustrating reoccurring problem you come across in the world of theatre production?
If you work in theatre you have to be able to think on your feet, as the industry is constantly changing. I do not find this frustrating, as it is exciting that there are always unexpected hurdles to overcome and problems to solve. It keeps you on your toes!
3. Can you tell us about how the idea for the charity single A Million Dreams, in aid of NSPCC came about.
West End Stage is all about encouraging young people to be themselves in an environment which is supportive, open and positive. The NSPCC works hard to ensure that every young person is given all the support and tools they need to have confidence in who they are. We therefore wanted to support this fantastic organisation, and as our strength is in musical theatre, a song was the best way for us to communicate our support. As the NSPCC supports our demographic of students, we could think of no better charity to team up with.
4. What’s been the most memorable part of the charity single project so far?
When the students all sang together for the first time. The sound of so many voices coming together raised the hairs on the back of my neck.
5. With so many fantastic, well-known musical hits, what was it about A Million Dreams that inspired you and your students to release that song?
‘A Million Dreams’ is all about having a dream that inspires you every day, that keeps you going when times get tough and that connects you with others. Our dreams and ambitions make us who we are, and the NSPCC’s work helps to give more and more young people a voice to express those dreams. It was therefore the perfect song.
And just for fun…
6. Do you prefer to watch movies at the cinema or in the comfort of your own home?
Cinema – there’s nothing like the big screen experience!
7. If you were taking someone out for their first ever theatre experience, would you choose a classic or one of the more modern shows?
Modern – I love to support new work.
8. Are there any songs that always bring a tear to your eye?
Not really, however ‘Tight Connection to my Heart’ from The Girl from the North Country was the last song that made me shed a tear.
9. With so many successful projects under your belt, you’re very much a go-getter! What’s the craziest, most outrageous thing you want to achieve?
Open a brand new musical in the West End. Though not original, it’s still a crazy dream!
10. If you could call up anyone in the world and have a one-hour conversation, who would you call?
Guillermo Del Toro
The charity single, A Million Dreams, is now available to download on iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/a-million-dreams-for-childline-feat-kerry-ellis-single/1438295345.
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