Last week I went to a drama school showcase with a difference. American Musical Theatre Academy London presented its showcase to a smallish audience in its own studios near Old Street station rather than in a borrowed West End venue.
It was entertaining and some of the students are very talented indeed. I am absolutely certain that we shall see a great deal more of Candace Furbert (pictured) very soon. She glittered with theatrical charisma from her first appearance in a Sister Act extract with Louise Sansum to a duet from The Color Purple with Tony Bayliss and her final number from Ragtime with ensemble. She is a very versatile, sensitive actor and her full belt (unamplified in this small, low-ceilinged space) is extraordinary. In that cosy venue I could even see her tonsils.
Watch out for Laura Oliver, Jonathan Barnes, Flick Khouri and Tony Bayliss too. The best item in the showcase was probably the slick, accomplished and funny Cell Block Tango from Chicago and it makes a terrific difference to have the whole show accompanied live on piano, so well done to Terence Penk.
On the other hand, as I often comment in showcase reviews, a showcase doesn’t work as it should if it’s too big. And this one was.
You simply cannot effectively showcase the work of 35 students in 50 minutes. Many of them had so little to do so it was almost impossible for anyone in the audience to make a fair assessment of ability and potential. And showcases are meant for talent-spotting agents and casting directors, after all — not journalists. It’s also a shame, because it places such limitations on how the students function as a company that out of those 35 students just two — yes, two — are male.
AMTA is a newish independent school founded by Canadians, Kenneth Avery-Clark (who directed the showcase) and Christie Miller. It offers a one year intensive musical theatre course. Its additional, new two year course starts in September. Both of these include a block of time training in the US — in New York City (only in the second year on the two year course). And there is a one year programme for stage and screen which includes time in Los Angeles. All the tutors are current industry professionals.
Also on offer at AMTA are various part-time options including a ten week acting through song course, taught on Saturdays, and a 12-week intensive Sunday musical theatre programme. The school runs evening classes too.