Razzamataz Theatre School Medway were crowned Jack Petchey Glee Club Challenge Champions 2016 at the Grand Final held at London’s IndigO2 at The O2 Arena last night (Sunday 20th March). They had to perform on the night in front of celebrity judges: actress Tamzin Outhwaite, West End performer John Partridge; X-factor finalist and stage performer Brenda Edwards currently touring in Hairspray; BBC entertainment correspondent, Brenda Emmanus and soap star Danny-Boy Hatchard.
The school were one of 12 Grand Finalists made up of 170 young people to perform in front of a packed IndigO2. As well as winning the top prize the talented performers also won the Artistic Team prize, awarded to the group that the artistic coaching team feel has made the most artistic, personal and team progress throughout the programme. Not only did the group dance off with two trophies they also won prize money totalling £3,000.
The Kent group took top honours at their first attempt. The Jack Petchey Glee Club Challenge, now in its fifth year, expanded into Kent and Surrey this year as well as London and Essex, creating the biggest competition so far. Groups shortlisted competed in regional finals and also took part in boot camps. At the Grand Final £5,000 was given away in prizes.
Head judge, Tamzin Outwaite said “It’s a very difficult thing being a judge while you’re watching talent like that because some of the vocals have been amazing and some of the entertainment generally has been amazing and it’s very difficult to know how to score but I think we ended up deciding it was the people who moved us and when the hairs on the back of our necks stood up we knew that they were doing something important. But they were all doing something important. It’s like looking at future stars of the theatre. It feels like a privilege and I feel honoured to be here.”
John Partridge, currently staring in Chicago added “Once again the Glee Club Challenge is inspirational. I have been in this business for 30 years and I am as inspired today as I have ever been. Fantastic!”
John has kindly offered to foot the bill for the entire winning group to go and see his production free of charge with a backstage tour afterwards.
The group stole the show with stunning performances of a Beyonce medley and Seasons of Love from musical Rent. Razzamataz Theatre School Medway’s Principal, Hayley Limpkin said “We are in shock and completely overwhelmed. When we first entered the competition we never expected to even get to the final. The standard was so high we feel privileged to perform alongside such talented groups.”
Ms Limpkin went on “We are proud beyond all measure and the tissues came out in force. We are particularly thrilled as we are an inclusive school and do not hold auditions to find our talent.”
This year the competition attracted over 60 groups each of eight to 30 performers, aged between 11 and 25. Thirty-eight groups were selected from audition tapes submitted during last summer to contest the regional finals.
Brenda Edwards said “We’ve seen some amazing talent this year and I think it’s been the most even competition so far. The talent is hot and fierce”.
BBC entertainment correspondent, Brenda Emmanus added “Every year the bar is raised. They are absolutely phenomenal and truly inspiring. I think, without a doubt, we can say we are looking at the enormous talent of the future. It’s extremely difficult to judge because it just gets better and better each year.”
Soap star, Danny-Boy Hatchard is an alumni of the Jack Petchey Theatre Challenge (predecessor to the Jack Petchey Glee Club Challenge). He said “Theatre Challenge was the start of a magical journey and gave me the foundation and solid understanding of an industry I wanted to join. Tonight was fantastic and I am blown away by the standard. What I have seen makes me really excited to see what the next generation has in store. This is all thanks to Jack Petchey for making it happen.”
Graham Norton, Patron of the Jack Petchey Glee Club Challenge, was out of the country this year but said “I'm so sorry to miss it. I always find the combination of youth and talent on show at the Glee Grand Final truly inspiring.”
Second place went to South London’s Soul Train winning £1,250. Third was Newham’s Chobham Academy with a prize of £750.
Sir Jack Petchey, aged 90, said “I am passionate that we enable young people to be recognised, valued and rewarded for their achievements and positive contributions to society. The Glee Club Challenge is a wonderful example of showing us what can be achieved. They are all winners in my eyes.”
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