Have Honking Good Christmas

Feel-good fairy tales bring festive cheer

Musical Theatre students at Stratford-upon-Avon College are thrilled to bring you this year’s Musical Theatre performance project – Honkerella.

From Thursday 18 January to Friday 26 January, the students are presenting two musical productions – Honk! and Cinderella. The shows make up a perfect duo; although they have different musical styles, they are united by the same comedic tone and by their themes of love, regeneration and acceptance.

First hatched in 1993, George Stiles’ & Anthony Drewe’s multiple award-winning musical Honk! is a heart-warming celebration of being different and is sure to delight audiences of all ages with its sparkling wit and memorable score.

Re-imagining the much-loved Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale The Ugly Duckling, it tells the story of Ugly, who has to suffer the taunts of the other animals on the farm simply because he looks different from his duckling siblings. Ugly finds himself on an adventure of self-discovery, all the while unknowingly outwitting the show’s main villain – a very hungry Cat, and along the way meets a whole flock of unique characters. Ugly finds out that being different is not a bad thing after all.

And in Cinderella, the timeless enchantment of a magical fairy tale is reborn with the Rodgers & Hammerstein hallmarks of originality, charm and elegance. First presented on television in 1957 starring Julie Andrews, and adapted for the stage with great warmth and more than a touch of hilarity, Cinderella transports its audience to the miraculous kingdom of dreams-come-true; the hearts of children and adults alike still soar when the slipper fits.


With support from the College’s Technical Theatre students, each student taking part in the performances is also responsible for one of the many production roles, ranging from front of house, to costume or make-up, to publicity.

Musical Theatre student Connor Marron, 17 from Banbury, plays the Cat in Honk! and is also the show’s assistant director. For him, the biggest challenge was embodying an animal correctly: “When you actually stand on stage and try to portray a cat it’s very tough. You need to be believable, not look ridiculous and also focus on your performance.”

But an enthusiastic Connor, who has prepared for the role by studying real life cats and researching various productions of the musical Cats, is delighted with rehearsals for the show so far. “The show is amazingly interesting to be a part of. It’s amazing to watch and so much fun to be in.”

Stuck for that special Christmas present for a loved one? Don’t miss out! Book your tickets now at

Dance and Musical Theatre lecturer Phil Watson-Smith

Hollywood Comes to Christmas

Stratford will be having a Holly Jolly Christmas.

A Stratford-upon-Avon College lecturer will take to the stage in a Hollywood-themed Christmas show.

Phil Watson-Smith, a lecturer of Dance and Musical Theatre at the College, is a member of theatre company The Theatre Collective – a group of eight professionals, all with a drama school or teaching background, who were eager to perform professionally in their spare time.

The company will soon be staging A Holly Jolly Christmas – their very own musical theatre show providing a festive celebration of the golden era of Hollywood. Phil, originally from Solihull, describes A Holly Jolly Christmas as “a fun, family-friendly festive treat designed to set people up for the Christmas season.

“It’s inspired by cinematic depictions of the festive session – Bing Crosby, Michael Buble and Judy Garland – and is packed with Hollywood Christmas classics. It pays tribute to the greatest stars of the MGM years in Hollywood.”

For Phil, being involved in The Theatre Collective offers more than the thrill of being on stage. He firmly believes creating and performing in theatre productions helps him in his role as a lecturer in dance and musical theatre and ensures he is teaching his students the necessary skills: “I feel that I wouldn’t be able to do my teaching if I didn’t have the level of practical experience shows such as this provide. It gives me a real insight into the industry I am preparing my students for.”

A Holly Jolly Christmas is on at Blue Orange Theatre in the Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham on 9th and 10th December, 2.30pm and 7pm.

Tickets cost £14 (£10 concessions) and are available at

And for those who can’t get enough of the festive spirit, the company has recorded a Christmas album of songs from the show, which will be on sale at the performances.

For regular updates on rehearsal and previews of some of the numbers to be performed, keep an eye on The Theatre Collective’s Facebook page.

Dance students from Stratford-upon-Avon College with Edge Hill University’s Debbie Milner (far left)

Performers on Track for Stardom

RSC, Performing Arts School and alumni provide hands-on support at Stratford-upon-Avon-College.

It has been a fantastic start to the year for Performing Arts students at Stratford-upon-Avon College. Only three weeks into the new term, the students have already found themselves immersed in hands-on, intensive workshops, developing professional skills and audition preparation with the RSC, leading Performing Arts Schools and former students who are now flourishing on the stage and screen.

Just last week, two Performing Arts lecturers from Edge Hill University visited the College to work with its Dance and Acting students. With the help of a group of their own Edge Hill students, Debbie Milner, Senior Lecturer in Dance, and Geof Atwell, Senior Lecturer in Drama, ran workshops to prepare the College students for university applications and industry employment.

Amongst the Dance students taking part in the workshop were Georgia Holmes, 17 from Warwick, and Nathan Smart, 17 from Brackley.

For Georgia, the most challenging part of the workshop was the unfamiliar African dance style favoured by Edge Hill. “The way you have to move is very different to anything I’ve done before. It was really fun but tough!”

The focus of the workshop was on audition preparation, and both Georgia and Nathan are agreed that it has helped prepare them for progressing to the next stage of their career. Nathan commented: “Debbie and Geof encouraged me to really push myself. I learned so much from the session. They gave us plenty of tips on how to succeed in auditions. It’s allowed me to develop a better understanding of how to behave, how to present myself, and how to work with a choreographer during auditions.”

And Georgia summed up the mood of her fellow students: “They pushed us a lot, which is exactly what you need. I feel much more confident about auditioning. I feel I can step into an audition now and feel fine instead of just panicking!”

Claire Morley, Assistant Head of Performing Arts and Music, is in no doubt about how important it is for all her department’s students to absorb a professional stage environment right from the start of their course. “I’m delighted they have already had the benefit of so many visits and workshops so early in their studies, and I am deeply grateful to all those who have given their time to visit the College and share their skills, knowledge and invaluable experience with our Performing Arts students.”

Musicals ROCK! VI

Musicals ROCK! VI

Set in the fabulous ArtsHouse, Stratford upon Avon, students from Stratford upon Avon College are set to ‘ROCK’ the town through three evening performances celebrating the successes of a selection of epic musicals including; Copacabana, Chess, Rocky Horror Show, Grease, Wicked and Mamma Mia. With nearly 100 students involved in the show the performances are set to blow you away!

Video courtesy of the Stratford-upon-Avon Herald.

Musical Theatre students rehearse for their upcoming performance of Chaircago

Students Raise Disability Awareness with Unique Musical Adaptation

Stratford is about to host a unique theatrical performance, when Musical Theatre students from Stratford-upon-Avon College put their own take on the musical Chicago.

Inspired by one of their colleagues, Kieron Hoult, 17 from Redditch, who is a wheelchair user, the students felt passionately about the need to raise awareness of wheelchair users in the arts and decided to perform excerpts from the musical with all performers in wheelchairs – and so Chaircago was born!

The British Red Cross is kindly sponsoring the event by lending the College 22 wheelchairs for use in the performance. Nadia Jambawai, Mobility Aid Coordinator at the Red Cross commented: “We’re delighted to lend our support to this very worthwhile project and to be able to provide practical help. Until people experience an injury that affects their mobility, they just don’t realise how challenging it can be. The students should be applauded for their wish to raise awareness in such a positive way.”

Everyone involved is excited by the thought of performing Chaircago in front of a live audience. First year Musical Theatre student Kieran will be performing in the show and has served as Movement Director, helping the students to learn to operate the wheelchairs. He explained: “This is by far the best performance I’ve been involved with at the College. We designed the show to illustrate to people that disability is no barrier to being involved in a production.

“A few years ago, I was told that I was unable to study GCSE Drama when I was at school, so it’s really important to me to prove that this can be done and show that there is a key role for people with disabilities in the arts.

“The rehearsal period has been more challenging than our previous productions. We’ve had a few on-stage collisions as the other performers have been getting used to moving in wheelchairs!

“The audience won’t have seen anything like it; this is a once in a lifetime experience and a true first for the College.”

Musical Theatre students rehearse for their upcoming performance of Chaircago

Musical Theatre students rehearse for their upcoming performance of Chaircago

Musical theatre students preparing to go onstage at the NAMSS Conference

College Performing Arts Students Wow the Audience at National Conference

Musical Theatre students from Stratford-upon-Avon College attended a prestigious educational event where they were invited to perform show-stopping extracts from one of their recent productions.

The students travelled to the NAMSS (National Association for Managers in Student Services) Annual Conference in Liverpool where they opened the event’s 30th anniversary gala dinner at the Hilton Hotel on Monday evening.

The students took to the stage to perform a selection of songs, monologues and dances from the play ‘Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens’. The audience, comprising representatives from over 100 colleges across the UK, were delighted by the quality and passion of the College performance, and the Musical Theatre learners were thrilled to receive a standing ovation.

Mark Lewis, Director of Student Services and Marketing at the College, was very proud of the students. “They put on a superb, highly professional performance and proved to be worthy ambassadors for the College. We are grateful to NAMSS for giving them the chance to perform in front of such a prestigious audience; opportunities like this are vital for students to experience a real-life theatrical setting and further develop their performance skills.”

The students were also able to take advantage of the trip to spend the afternoon at the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts. Participating in a series of acting, dance and music workshops, they took advantage of this great opportunity to enhance their learning and gain a taste of the rigorous training that awaits them as they progress to drama school.

Level 3 Musical Theatre student Paige Donaldson, 17 from Solihull, is currently auditioning for drama schools and found the visit invaluable. “We got to experience first-hand how students at LIPA are taught. I found out a lot about what they expect from the students who come to audition with them.”

Level 3 Musical Theatre student Bryony Harrison, also 17 from Solihull, has just been accepted to the second round of auditions at the Guildford School of Acting in Surrey. “It really gave me a feel for the different pathways available to me while studying at a drama school.”

Bryony certainly believes that the combination of the LIPA workshop and her training at the College has set her up perfectly for the future. “My course at Stratford-upon-Avon College definitely prepared me for progressing to the next stage of my training. My confidence has increased a lot and I absolutely believe if I wasn’t studying Musical Theatre here I would not have been able to get through any of my auditions.”

Former Performing Arts Student Leo Bill Stars Alongside Tom Hardy in BBC’s Taboo

Former Stratford-upon-Avon College performing arts student Leo Bill appeared in the first episode of new BBC drama Taboo on Saturday night (07 January 2017).

Leo Bill studied A Level Drama Package at the College between 1996 and 1998 and stars alongside top Hollywood talent Tom Hardy (The Revenant, Peaky Blinders, Mad Max: Fury Road) and Jonathan Pryce (Game of Thrones, Wolf Hall, Pirates of the Caribbean) in the new series set in the early 1800s.

Leo has previously appeared in a number of acclaimed films and television series such as Alice in Wonderland, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Borgias, The White Queen, Alice Through the Looking Glass and A Long Way Down.

After studying at the College Leo went on to train at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) graduating in 2001 before being awarded the Austin Texas Film Festival Best Actor Award in 2006.

Taboo is broadcast on BBC One on Saturdays at 9:15PM.

Musical Theatre students perform at the Association of Colleges’ conference and exhibition.

College Students Enliven Education Conference with Show-Stopping Entertainment

Attendees of this year’s Association of Colleges’ Conference and Exhibition were treated to exceptional entertainment performed by Musical Theatre students from Stratford-upon-Avon College.

Musical Theatre students perform at the Association of Colleges’ conference and exhibition.

The students performed two extracts from their successful production of Hairspray, which was recently shown to the public in one of the College’s industry-standard theatres. The energetic performances demonstrated the students’ lyrical talent as they enlivened the evening with their enthusiasm and professionalism.

The event was held at the ICC in Birmingham and brought together senior leaders from the Further Education sector to learn, develop, support and exchange information. The conference combined keynote speakers and breakout sessions to inform, stimulate debate and provide the latest news on recent innovations in FE from senior figures in government, education and wider business sectors.

Musical Theatre students perform at the Association of Colleges’ conference and exhibition.

Commenting on the experience, Ellen Hastings, 17 from Kenilworth, said: “The performance went really well – especially since we didn’t know exactly what the stage would look like until we got there! It’s always great to perform live as you get to see the reaction of the audience. To have another chance to perform something we’re so passionate about was amazing, and we got to show off the College’s talents as well.”

Assistant Head of Department for Performing Arts and Music Claire Morley attended the conference and was delighted to be accompanied by the Musical Theatre students. “I was extremely proud to bring the College’s students to such a high-profile event. They demonstrated the exceptional talents and boundless enthusiasm of our Performing Arts learners, and proved to be very worthy ambassadors for Stratford-upon-Avon College.”


Former Performing Arts Student Reece Bahia

College Graduate Prepares For a Thriller Performance

A former student at Stratford-upon-Avon-College has begun rehearsals for a major West End theatre performance having been cast in the musical Thriller Live.

Reece Bahia, 21 from Coventry, studied Musical Theatre at the College from 2012 to 2014 and will be performing songs such as Dirty Diana, Beat it and She’s Out of My Life as part of the production.

Over the moon at being cast in such a prestigious show, Reece said, “It is a huge honour to be cast in this production. When I was growing up, Michael Jackson was my biggest inspiration so to be able to celebrate his music is just perfect.”

Such on-stage success is a far cry from the future Reece was working towards just a few years ago when studying A Levels to pursue a career in dentistry. “I’ve always been passionate about music since an early age and I think I always knew it was what I wanted to do. I got to a point in my A Levels when I finally accepted this and decided to pursue it with all my heart.”

After joining the College’s Musical Theatre course, he never looked back. “I couldn’t recommend the Performing Arts department enough. The staff in the College gave me the confidence and skills to be able to pursue my dream. If you are thinking about taking up performing arts as a career then this is the place for you.”

Since graduating, Reece has secured modelling work as the face of Indian clothing company KOOVS, filmed commercials in India and Argentina, and performed in the leading role of a UK tour of the musical Laila. And with his latest role in Thriller Live, it seems dentistry’s loss is definitely musical theatre’s gain!

Former Stratford-upon-Avon College student Joseph Mawle

Former College Students Joseph Mawle and Tobias Menzies Star in Game of Thrones

Former Stratford-upon-Avon College performing arts students Joseph Mawle and Tobias Menzies reprised their roles last night in HBO’s hit show Game of Thrones (Episode 6 of season 6 ‘Blood of my Blood‘).

Actor Joseph Mawle studied a national diploma in performing arts at the College between 1990 and 1992 whereas actor Tobias Menzies studied on a ‘Year out Drama’ course between 1993 and 1994.

Cast as the uncles of Jon Snow (Kit Harington) and the other Stark children both Benjen Stark (Mawle) and Edmure Tully (Menzies) returned to the show in an unexpected reveal.

Both Jospeh and Tobias have previously appeared in a number of acclaimed TV series such as the BBC’s The Passion and Ripper Street (Mawle), and HBO’s Rome and Starz’s Outlander (Menzies).

Game of Thrones is broadcast on Sky Atlantic on Mondays at 9PM.