Mousetrap Theatre Projects,’s adopted charity for this year’s Theatregoers’ Choice Awards campaign (See News, 5 Nov 2007), celebrated its tenth birthday last night (Sunday 18 November 2007) with a celebrity gala at the West End’s St Martin’s Theatre, home of the long-running Agatha Christie thriller The Mousetrap, from which the charity got its name.

In its first decade, Mousetrap Theatre Projects has enabled some 60,000 young people to attend West End plays and musicals with heavily subsidised tickets costing just £3 to £5. Most theatre visits are supported by one of Mousetrap Theatre Projects’ 14 education, access and audience development programmes. As part of its tenth anniversary celebrations this year, Mousetrap also organised two free all-student matinees to both Billy Elliot and Wicked. Founded in 1997 by Sir Stephen Waley-Cohen, the producer of The Mousetrap, the heart of the Projects’ work is the desire to open doors to young people who would otherwise consider London’s rich cultural heritage closed to them.

Hosted by actor Simon Callow and directed by David Grindley, last night’s event showcased a variety of West End productions that Mousetrap has recently visited, with musical performances by: Kerry Ellis and Dianne Pilkington from Wicked; Shaun Escoffery from Parade; Oliver Taylor, Sarah Poyzer and Kate Graham from Billy Elliot; Margaret Preece from The Sound of Music; Ruth Harris (Donna) from Mamma Mia!; Cassandra Compton from Les Misérables; and Dean Collinson from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

Charles Edwards, the original Richard Hannay in the Olivier and Award-winning comedy The 39 Steps, and Philip Franks and Richard Glaves, who previously starred in the West End production of RC Sheriff’s Journey’s End, also performed scenes from their respective plays. The performance excerpts were introduced by a variety of young people who have participated in Mousetrap Theatre Projects’ programmes. Lord Richard Attenborough, who was in the original cast of The Mousetrap and who is now an MTP patron, also spoke movingly about the charity’s work. The show was produced by Carole Winter of MJE Productions.

The entertainment was followed by an auction of 11 items, hosted by Lord Dalmeny of Sotheby’s, which raised £71,500. The top lot was £15,000 for a guided tour of the set of the new Harry Potter film. Another bidder paid £7,000 for tickets to the current West End production of Swimming with Sharks followed by dinner at the Ivy afterwards with the play’s star Christian Slater. All of the West End’s major producers contributed to the evening, with performances or lot donations for either the live auction or the silent auction held as part of the post-show reception at the Garrick Club. In total, Mousetrap raised nearly £250,000 on the night. For more information on Mousetrap Theatre Projects, click here.

The launch party for this year’s Theatregoers’ Choice Awards, the only major theatre prize-giving to be decided by the public, is held in aid of Mousetrap. Throughout November, theatregoers can log on to nominate their favourite performances and productions for Awards consideration across all 24 categories.

The full Awards shortlists will be announced on Friday 7 December 2007 at a star-studded lunchtime ceremony, guest hosted by the first lady of British musical theatre, Elaine Paige OBE, at Café de Paris. After the launch party, the race is on to decide the eventual Theatregoers’ Choice Award winners, with voting continuing for two months from Monday 10 December and results announced in mid-February 2008.

First Magazine - the UK’s must-read weekly glossy magazine for smart, stylish women - is media partner for the 2008 Theatregoers’ Choice Awards. Other sponsors include: Superbreak, the market leader for short breaks throughout the UK; Nick Hern Books, the UK’s leading independent theatre publishers and performing rights licensors; leading live entertainment marketing services agencies aka and Dewynters plc; and theatre and event ticketing providers Ticketmaster and See Tickets.