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Winner of the 2022 Stephen Sondheim Society Student Performer of the Year competition revealed

Desmonda Cathabel takes home the prize

Desmonda Cathabel (centre) with runner-up Ella Shepherd (left) and third-placed Jade Oswald (right)
© David Ovenden

Desmonda Cathabel from Jakarta, Indonesia, has won the 14th annual Stephen Sondheim Society Student Performer of the Year competition, which was held at the West End's Sondheim Theatre last night.

Cathabel, who is currently studying at the Royal Academy of Music, said: "As someone coming from a faraway country to pursue an impossible dream of musical theatre and having English as a second language, I used to be extremely doubtful that I had what it takes to do it. But being selected to this final, doing Sondheim's work – which is famously hard to do – I am now more confident that I'm good enough to do what I love to do and be able to convey the stories that I want to convey through my performance."

Her prize consists of £1,000, the opportunity to headline her own Sondheim-themed cabaret in London and to be the subject of a Comparing Notes intimate conversation and performance evening at the Crazy Coqs in London, which will be hosted by Edward Seckerson.

Receiving the runner-up prize of £500 was Ella Shepherd from Bird College Conservatoire, with Jade Oswald, also studying at the Royal Academy of Music, collecting the £250 third prize.

During the competition itself, each of the 12 finalists had to sing two show tunes: a Sonheim song and a musical number from new or up and coming composers and lyricists, curated by New UK Musicals. Cathabel's renditions of "The Miller's Son" from Into the Woods and "I'm Ready" from The Snow Queen, written by Eamonn O'Dwyer, earned her the top honour.

The prizes were awarded by Julia McKenzie, with the event directed by Hannah Chissick and hosted by Jenna Russell, with musical direction by Nigel Lilley. The judging panel included Daniel Evans, Theo Jamieson, Caroline Sheen, Liz Robertson and Michael D Xavier.

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