The illusive @westendproducer’s Search For A Twitter Star reached its climax at the Lyric Theatre. Not one but two potential stars have been selected from an original entry pool of over 650 hopefuls. Ten finalists battled for the title in a full-on West End live final, delivering one song each before an audience electronic vote decided the winners. Judging panel Louise Dearman, Mike Dixon, Gemma Lowy Hamilton and David King gave a fair amount of praise and a lot of criticism after each contestant had sung. This was really ‘rabbit in the headlights’ stuff, stood alone on the large stage, listening as their entry was picked apart, while an audience of fans, industry professionals and the plain curious looked and listened uncomfortably. Reading journalistic criticism of a production in the privacy of your own home is one thing and can be pretty unpleasant if the review goes against you, standing there on stage in full public view as your solo performance is publicly dissected is quite something else. This is lonesome territory and definitely not for the feint hearted.
While some of the hopefuls have received professional theatre school education via traditional routes, others are just embarking on that path and for several, this was their first time ever on a West End stage. Without exception, the achievement of getting through to the final ten is one to be proud of but for those yet to be formally trained, it’s quite remarkable. Particularly given that they won’t have made those all-so-important industry contacts which come by working ‘in’ the profession, which must surely have made mustering sufficient support to get through the initial public voting stages online, a very difficult task. Quite extraordinary then, that eighteen year old contestant Felipe Bejarano (@FelipeBejarano_) with no such qualification and making his debut on a professional stage, should win the male title. For him, this truly is the stuff that dreams are made of and a great start to one’s career. His crowd-pleasing performance of Jason Robert Brown’s ‘Someone To Fall Back On’ demonstrated great dynamic range and stage charisma, together with a natural warmth.
Kara Bayer (@karabayer) works in theatre, but having studied textiles and costume design she too has no traditional performing background and is currently a wardrobe assistant with Garsington Opera Company. Nonetheless, her gutsy and convincing performance of ‘Taylor The Latte Boy’ earned her a nail-biting place in the final four, along with judges’ favourite Alexandra Da Silva (@alexdasilva27) and Benjamin Vivian-Jones (@BenVivianJones) who had also enchanted the audience enough to make it to the very last hurdle with ‘The Man That Got Away’ from A Star Is Born and ‘Stranger In This World’ from Taboo, respectively. Kara took the female crown after a tense sing-off.
Guest appearances from Louise Dearman, Associated Studios and Patch of Blue Theatre Company provided light relief as the voting rounds took place.
With the winners announced by presenter Aled Jones, Jon Lee and Kerry Ellis gave duets with each; no doubt a stunning experience for both Felipe and Kara who stepped up to the mark admirably.
And then, some six months or so after it all began, Search For A Twitter Star was complete. Are we any the wiser to the identity of @Westendproducer? Well, a rather distinguished-looking male could be seen sat somewhat aloof in a box throughout the evening, complete with laptop, teddy bear and a huge bottle of Dom. He was never introduced to the audience, though he did take a bow. Could that really have been him? The mystery, it seems, is not totally over yet!
Contestants (in order of appearance)
Jason Broderick @Jason_Broderick
Bindy Baker @BeeBopBind
Elliot Clay @elliotclay
Alexandra Da Silva @alexdasilva27
Mikey Wooster @MikeWooster
Kara Bayer @karabayer
Felipe Bejerano @FelipeBejarano_
Sarah Gies @Sarah_Gies
Benjamin Vivian Jones @BenVivianJones
Emily Barker @Emsbarker
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By Gareth Richardson @BargainTheatre
9th July 2012
Lyric Theatre, London W1.
Who is @WestEndProducer?!
This is the question that has been circling the Twittersphere since last November, when a mysterious user started commenting about the theatrical world on the social networking site. The anonymous tweeter has enjoyed dropping hints that he is no other than Sir Cameron Mackintosh, but according to sources Sir Cameron is not much for technology…or is this yet another ruse? Although WEP has not been unmasked, and reportedly won’t be for a long time, Twitter’s very own Phantom has amassed over 18,000 followers in his 8 month reign.
WEP announced the online competition months ago and it has seen hundreds of entries, over 12 hours of footage submitted for the West End talent contest via YouTube. 20 men and 20 women were chosen as quarter finalists who were then voted for on Twitter to reach the semi finals 10/10. The judges revelled in choosing a Wild Card resulting in 11 men and 11 women in the semi finals who then submitted specifically recorded songs to become 1 of 10 finalists, 5 male and 5 female. All voted for via Twitter.
The 10 finalists will now compete head to head in a live concert at the West End’s Lyric Theatre, currently home to Thriller, with singer, actor and Radio 2 presenter Aled Jones as the evening’s host. Aled has starred in shows such as Joseph and the Technicolour Dreamcoat and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, he will also join Lorraine Kelly as co-host on ITV’s soon to be relaunched Daybreak.
The competition will be judged Louise Dearman, who will provide the finalists with a demonstration on solo singing, and other respected industry professionals: West End and TV Musical Director Mike Dixon, West End Agent Gemma Lowy-Hamilton and International Theatre Producer and Secret Millionaire David King.
A potential leading man and lady will be chosen by the audience and judges from the evening’s performances, who will then get to duet with West End stars Kerry Ellis and Jon Lee.
The #searchforatwitterstar LIVE finalists have attracted considerable support from the West End community with the generous donation of prizes and good luck video messages being posted daily by leading West End performers and show casts (see separate post for video).
“This is a very serious talent search - to find genuine and new theatre talent,” said @westendproducer. “It will also be a marvellous evening, and a world-first; an entire tweeting show. I’ll drink to that! #dear”
It is produced for @westendproducer by Tony Green, who is reuniting the creative team behind the recently sold-out Children of Eden gala concert - Director Drew Baker, Musical Supervisor James Draisey and Production Designer Ben M Rogers.
West End Producer will also be making an appearance, with tweets projected live throughout the show, sipping Dom accompanied by his Valjean teddy no doubt.
For tickets and more information visit: www.searchforatwitterstarlive.co.uk