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Britain’s theatres have been hit hard by restrictions surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic, but keen to support the area’s budding performers as the sector recovers, Michael Southern, who hails from the Wirral, is hoping his STAGE-ed summer school can help.
Run by Michael and his former on-stage brother Stephen Palfreman, STAGE-ed summer schools offer six days’ creative and dynamic training from professional actors, musicians and choreographers from London’s west end.
There are still some places available for children aged six to 18 to join The STAGE-ed West End Summer School, being held between August 16th and 20th at the Floral Pavilion Theatre. But they’ll also have the chance to perform their newly honed skills in front of a live audience in the 814-seat venue as part of a gala Musicals in Concert show, alongside well-known stars of the stage.
The show sold out in the 1,100-seat Villa Marina Theatre on the Isle of Man back in 2019. Amy Robbins, who played Michael’s mother Mrs Johnstone in Blood Brothers in the west end performed the emotionally charged ‘Tell Me It’s Not True from the long-running Liverpool-set hit, while Sabrina Carter wowed the audience with ‘Defying Gravity’ from Wicked. But it was the 100-strong STAGE-edsummer school cast singing ‘A Million Dreams’ from The Greatest Showman that had everyone on their feet.
The show will also feature numbers from Les Misérables, Mamma Mia, Miss Saigon, The Phantom of The Opera, We Will Rock You, Evita and many more. The star-studded night will be compered by TV funny man Ted Robbins of Phoenix Nights, and is suitable for all of the family.
“The theatre sector has shown incredible resilience over the last 18 months, and with that backdrop it’s all the more heartening that a local venue is helping us support the Wirral’s children to realise their theatrical dreams.
“There’s only one chance to enjoy the show, and because it’s the culmination of an intense but exhilarating week of learning, and is open to the public, this quality performance will be very special and I’ve no doubt quite emotional after Covid. Our main aim is that everyone – not least the audience – has a huge smile on their face at the end the night.”
Places at the summer school are offered on a first come, first served basis, and the week is nearly sold out. The concert is on sale via the Floral Pavilion Theatre Box office, and tickets are £25.
Michael, who toured the country playing Sammy Johnstone for 11 years, was once so scared to perform that he didn’t even try, so he knows how much the support of the audience means. He said:
“My mum used to take me to a talent contest called Joytime in Vale Park, New Brighton where I’d sit at the back watching, but rarely had the bottle to get up and have a go.”
Despite feeling he wasn’t a strong singer, Michael eventually found the courage to audition for a musical called Her Benny for the Liverpool Empire.
He said: “Against advice I was given at the time, I sang ‘Any Dream Will do’ from Joseph. I was that nervous I actually had the words in my hand, but as my confidence grew I just threw the words in the air and went for it. I got the part, and I loved it!”
Michael went on to win one of the first places at the then newly-opened Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (LIPA), before getting an agent and landing Blood Brothers.
He added: “My big passion is working with kids that are a bit like me – sat at the back watching others but secretly wishing they had that bit more confidence to give it a go. We know local people will be keen to help us offer them the truly exhilarating experience that can only come from performing in front of a live audience. There really is nothing quite like it.”
Of the STAGE-ed summer schools, Willy Russell said: “It’s obvious that the work Stephen and Michael are doing really inspires and engages with students. These boys put as much energy and enthusiasm in to their workshops as they put in to their performances on stage and I would highly recommend them.”
To book a place for your child or to find out more about the Wirral’s STAGE-ed West End Summer School, visit stage-ed.com/stage-ed-west-
To book tickets for the gala performance of The Musicals in Concert on August 21st, visit floralpavilion.com/en-GB/
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