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Julian Ovenden to host West End gala

The annual event will feature an afternoon of Sondheim classics sung by UK student performers

Julian Ovenden
© Dan Wooller

Downton Abbey star Julian Ovenden will host the tenth anniversary gala for the Stephen Sondheim Society Student Performer of the Year and Stiles + Drewe Prize.

The annual gala, which will be held at the Novello Theatre on 15 May, will feature an afternoon of Sondheim classics sung by UK student performers. The event will also include a preview of a song from one of the three new Stiles and Drewe musicals that are premiering in 2016.

The Sondheim competition awards the best student performer from one of the UK's musical theatre courses with £1,000 whilst the Stiles + Drewe Prize supports and develops new musical theatre writing by recognising an outstanding song from a new musical and awarding £1,000 to the winner.

This year also marks the inaugural MTI Stiles + Drewe Mentorship Award which will help to raise winner's profiles in the industry and provide them with mentorship and support to help develop a new musical over a twelve-month period, culminating in an industry showcase.

This year's judges include Don Black, Jason Carr, Anne Reid, Sondheim Society Patron Julia McKenzie and Olivier Award-nominated actress Sophie-Louise Dann. Writer and broadcaster Edward Seckerson will chair the Student Performer judging panel.

Olivier Award-winning writing duo George Stiles and Anthony Drewe said today: "'It is fantastic that once again this event will be showcasing new musical theatre writing, something we have long supported. We are delighted that for the 9th year we will be recognising an outstanding song from a new musical. We are also proud to expand the Stiles + Drewe Prize in 2016 to include our new Mentorship Award, generously supported by Music Theatre International."