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West End Calling | Arts Theatre

West End Calling was established in 2016 and registered as a charity in 2021 by West End Performer Alex James Ellison. Through a series of competitions and masterclasses all over the UK, it seeks to help young performers (aged between 7-21) gain audition experience, guidance, skills, and a chance to work with and receive feedback from West End Stars. Following four rounds of tough competitions, the organisation presents a showcase for family, friends and industry professionals to attend, entitled West End Calling: Grand Finals. I'd attended the Senior Finals for performers aged between 16-21, to a sold out Arts Theatre (where Ellison is currently part of the cast of The Choir of Man).

Performers are announced one by one by Ellison, allowing each incredible young talent to take to the stage to perform their songs and receive instant feedback from the judges. Whilst this may be daunting for the young performers, especially in front of a packed West End theatre, it's a wonderful insight into the working of the industry, and even better when accompanied by an even more supportive audience. 

The senior panel of judges consisted of West End performers Max Harwood, Emma Kingston and Lizzy Bea. The judges were incredibly kind with words of encouragement, support, helpful feedback, or recounting their personal experiences and connections to certain songs (even gracing us with a few lines). 

The 25 performers were all incredible and uniquely talented, and truly brought such passion and power to every performance. Performing a variety of songs such as Waitress' She Used to Be Mine, to Frozen 2's Into the Unknown, or a gender swap performance of I Don't Care from Cabaret, it was musical theatre galore. If this is an insight into the next wave of musical theatre performers, then it's safe to say the industry is in safe and capable hands. 

Despite a continuous 12 or 13 songs, each performance stood out and made its own mark. With focus on both singing and acting, a number of bold and thoughtful choices had been predetermined by the performers. This lead to the use of small props, chairs, costumes (a massive shoutout to Polina Pisartsova and Taya Gardiner who looked stunning in their outfits) or even full choreography (especially Lucy Parfitt during the show's closing performance).

Audiences were given a short break following all 25 performances to cast two votes in support of their favourite performers. However, due to a malfunctioning of the intended app, a very hasty alternative method of voting was employed, with the audience having to physically slot cards into boxes. Although this was time-consuming, a moment to appreciate how quickly an effective remedy was brought into play is necessarily.  

Another small unfortunate situation with a performer's mic, led to a fun few moments with host Ellison entertaining the crowd with his skills in stand up comedy, tap-dancing and leading an insightful quick conversation about drama schools. I would like to appreciate how quickly both issues were resolved and Ellison ensured that the spirit of the evening remained throughout. Also a shoutout to the young performers, (especially Todd Dachtler) who ploughed on, undeterred. 

The winners of this years West End Calling: Senior Edition are as follows-  

Rising Star: Ellie Jones (Still Hurting- The Last 5 Years

Vocal Performance: Louis Sykes (Gethsemane- Jesus Christ Superstar

Acting Performance: Hope Brotherhood (So Big, So Small- Dear Evan Hansen

Audience Favourite: Maya Rugen (If You Hadn't, But You Did- Two On The Aisle

Runner Ups: Ava Walsh and Gino Ochello (A Story of My Own- Clockmaker's Daughter) (Run Away With Me- Mad Ones

Winner: Jack Wright (What Is It About Her?- Wild Party)


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