Unlike BBC One’s Any Dream Will Do and ITV’s Grease Is the Word, Channel 4 has opted to focus on collaboration rather than competition in its theatre-related reality TV show, Musicool. The show, which has been airing middays on Sundays for the past two months (See News, 13 Mar 2007), has brought together a diverse group of ten young musicians (aged 18-25) to create a brand new musical in ten weeks. The resulting 90-minute will premiere in front of an invited industry audience this Sunday (6 May 2007) at the Bloomsbury Theatre.

The initial nationwide search advertised for simply a “brand new, unique music project”. In the first episode, when the true aim of the programme was revealed, the news was greeted with shock and horror by the successful applicants. “I don’t want to do that whole jazz-hands thing,” cried one. But the ten ditched their prejudices after visiting West End hits including Avenue Q, Little Shop of Horrors, Wicked and Billy Elliot, and undergoing a musical skills crash course.

The group’s tuition has been led by three mentors – director Fiona Laird, musical director Mike Dixon and choreographer Sean Cheeseman (Whatsonstage.com Award-nominated this year for Daddy Cool) – with numerous actors, singers, designers and other experts also participating. Amongst those who’ve appeared on the programme have been Stephen Daldry, Tamzin Outhwaite, Gary Kemp, Jermaine Jackson and Sadie Frost.

Details of the new musical – including title and storyline - have been kept firmly under wraps, but actor-playwright Kwame Kwei-Armah (Elmina’s Kitchen is helping to write the book for it, with songs written by the ten musicians, incorporating their wide-ranging genres from acoustic pop to jazz, grime and bashment. Theatre casting directors and producers and music industry talent-spotters have been invited to the performance, which will also be aired live on Channel 4 from noon on Sunday.

The ten-strong Musicool company - who have been living together in a musical boot camp house in Camden, north London, over the course of the programme - are: Abi Ryan (20-year-old RnB pop vocalist from Seaford, East Sussex), Nick Barrett (24, RnB, Newcastle), Midas Whittaker aka Mr Midas (23, dancehall and bashment MC, London), William Atkinson (22, death metal, Theydon Bois in Essex), Darren Michelangelo Smith (19, indie, Cambridge), Annika Gabbitas (22, RnB, Sheffield), Fe Salomon (24, rock, London), Esther Barton aka Axe Girl (21, acoustic pop punk, Bristol), Cleopatra Humphrey (18, grime MC, London) and Chris Royle (18, RnB garage, Manchester).

Meanwhile, Channel 4’s digital channel, E4, is auditioning for a new reality show with a working title School of Performing Arts. Twenty-four promising actors, singers and actors will experience six weeks of “hard graft” in a Fame-style arts school, with the cameras capturing the emotional highs and lows of training to be a professional performer. As with Musicool, no one will be voted off – but there is a big prize. The seven-part series, due to begin airing in September, will culminate with a live showcase event. Performers who shine brightest there could win real places at some of the UK’s leading performing arts schools.

Further information on auditions for School of Performing Arts can be found at www.e4talent.com.

- by Terri Paddock