I’ve been chatting to Russell Scott, who founded New Talent Spotlight three years ago.
He works with singers in the early stages of their careers who are still trying to get a break. Paid (modestly) for their work, these performers take part in professional shows which Scott produces. He sees his role as that of a talent scout. “We are not an agency and it’s not a competition,” he says. His website describes New Talent Spotlight as “the independent UK talent platform for emerging musical theatre professionals.”
We all know that there are talented performers coming out of training establishments who need to — and should be — noticed, but often are not. So Scott’s idea seems rather a good one to me, and he certainly seems to impress the people who see him in action.
When, for example, New Talent Spotlight did a show based on Tim Rice numbers, Rice came to see it. He helpfully gave access to some out of print work and has intimated he would like to work with Scott again. Don Black came to see the show which featured his work too — and liked what he saw and heard.
The next show is a West End Charity Gala on Sunday 23 September at Leicester Square Theatre. The show is called From Stage and Screen… And Back Again and features numbers which have started either on stage or screen and moved - in either direction. Proceeds will go to the Royal Hospital for Neuro-Disability.
Scott and his colleagues receive about 500 applications a year from performers. They audition - casting for specific shows - around 200 and work with about 20 each year. “When we revive a former show,” he says, “I always offer each part to the performer who did it originally before re-casting.”
Active in the music industry for 30 years since he was 8 years old, when he used to play the organ for ballroom dancing, Scott — unusually — sings both musical theatre and opera. And he has quite a CV. He turned professional in 2000, has sung solos in requiems with choral societies up and down the country, worked on the original Billy Elliot and Shrek soundtracks, run a musical theatre competition and has directed Pizza in the Park among many other activities and achievements. He has also been working for some years as a voice coach.
“I’ve become very aware of how much talent there is out there and how difficult it can be to get started in the industry and that the mediocrity of very popular TV talent shows has made it worse,” he says, explaining that he started New Talent Spotlight because he wants to provide springboard opportunities for rising stars.
Scott also makes a point of providing paid work experience for theatre creatives who are just starting out. For example, HOB Salons work on his shows which provides an outlet for their new talent too. In effect it’s further training.
I haven’t seen any of Scott’s shows, but by all accounts the standard is very high and often leads to further work offers for the cast. Sounds like a win-win to me.