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Toyan Thomas-Browne performs in UK's first all-black 'Guys and Dolls'

In October 2017, it was announced that the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester would present the UK’s first all-black production of the classic American musical, Guys and Dolls with London Studio Centre alumni Toyan Thomas-Browne in the role of Moe.

Toyan and the cast of Guys and Dolls perform Luck be a Lady

In his third year at London Studio Centre, Toyan was a member of the music theatre company, Seedtime, and impressed audiences at the end of year performances with his renditions of Not My Father’s Son from Kinky Boots and Too Darn Hot from Kiss Me, Kate. 

After graduating, Toyan had a busy 2016, performing in the ensembles for We Will Rock You and That Man at the London Hippodrome. That same year he performed with the Pet Shop Boys at their Inner Sanctum concerts at the Royal Opera House where Becky Howell (LSC alumna and now teacher) was assisting with choreography. Towards the end of the year, Toyan joined the ensemble for Christmas on Ice at Canada's largest gaming resort, the Fallsview Casino.

Toyan getting into his costume for the Caterpillar in WonderlandToyan getting into his Caterpillar costume for Wonderland

In 2017, Toyan was cast in the original UK tour of Wonderland, Frank Wildhorn’s Tony Award-nominated musical based on Lewis Carroll’s Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. Performing alongside Wendi Peters (Queen of Hearts), Toyan was a member of the ensemble and first cover for the Caterpillar. He debuted his sassy and humerous take on the Caterpillar at New Wimbledon Theatre, where he had previously performed in London Studio Centre’s Dance Overture.

Toyan as Moe in Guys and DollsToyan as Moe in Guys and Dolls

Following the Wonderland Tour, Toyan performed in a one-off concert of new musical The Prince at the Arts Theatre before joining Guys and Dolls which opened at the Royal Exchange Theatre on the 2nd December. Whilst it isn’t the world’s first all-black production of the musical (a previous production played Broadway in 1976), director Michael Buffong’s bold casting decision comes at a time when representation and casting are hot topics in the world of music theatre. By transporting the musical from glitzy 1950’s New York City to pre-war Harlem, Buffong explores the African American culture of the time and features hip-hop inspired choreography by Kenrick ‘H20’ Sandy (who choreographed the powerful Death of a Dynasty for Jazz Dance Company’s 2017 Dynasties tour). Buffong explained that Harlem in the 1930s was “all about the hustle” and that the creativity of the era inspired much of today’s popular dance and music.

Prince Edward and the cast of Guys and DollsPrince Edward and the cast of Guys and Dolls

The show has enjoyed a great extended run including a special 40th Anniversary performance for the Royal Exchange where Toyan and the cast performed for Prince Edward. The show also received fantastic reviews with the Guardian claiming the new context gives Guys and Doll “an extra jazzy swing in its step and more grit to its characters”, whilst the Express called it a “smart production with a talented cast” – a brilliant accolade for Toyan! We can't wait to see what he does next!

Additional 10,000 sq ft of studio space, new for 2017

2017 was such a successful year for London Studio Centre, full of many challenges, achievements and commendations.

The 2017 summer break allowed LSC to complete the redevelopment and expansion of its facilities at the award-winning artsdepot. The project saw the addition of 10,000 sq ft of state-of-the-art space including two new dance studios, two new drama studios and three new singing studios. This now means London Studio Centre has over 40,000 sq ft of space in its artsdepot campus, including two fully equipped theatres. The new facilities were officially opened at the start of the autumn term and students and teachers have been enjoying the benefits of them since.

Studio 2London Studio Centre's new facilities include two additional dance studios,
two additional drama studios and three additional singing studios

In May, LSC underwent a review by the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education. The expert panel reported that LSC had not merely met the threshold benchmark for higher education institutes but ‘commended’ it for the excellence of its learning opportunities. Following a rigorous examination of its provision the Panel also noted the following good practice:

  1. The systematic approach to the professional development of all staff, including part-time and self-employed faculty staff, which enhances learning and teaching, and support for students (Expectation B3).
  2. The embedding of professional practice throughout the curriculum and the extra-curricular activities, including engagement with professional networks, enabling students to enhance their employment opportunities (Expectation B4).
  3. The extent and accessibility of student support that reflects the particular needs of its students (Expectation B4).

It’s also worth noting that QAA Reviews usually contain recommendations as to how a higher-education institute can improve their provision, however the Panel made no such recommendations for London Studio Centre. Whilst London Studio Centre is extremely proud to have received no recommendations, the college continuously strives to improve the student experience.

Screen Shot 2018 02 02 at 17.37.50

TEF Silver logo words RGBLondon Studio Centre received excellent reviews from
the Quality Assurance Agency and the Teaching Excellence Framework scheme

2017 was the first year that London Studio Centre applied for the newly introduced Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), a scheme lead by the Department for Education that aims to recognise excellence in teaching, learning and outcomes and help inform prospective students’ choices for higher education. The TEF panel reviewed London Studio Centre’s metrics and submission and in June 2017 awarded the college with a Silver Award, giving the following praise:

Overall, the TEF Panel judged that London Studio Centre delivers high quality teaching, learning and outcomes for its students. It consistently exceeds rigorous national quality requirements for UK higher education.

London Studio Centre is proud to receive a Silver Award in its first application to the scheme, and for 2018 it aims to achieve Gold.

Screen Shot 2018 02 05 at 12.15.23Screen Shot 2018 02 05 at 12.25.06London Studio Centre is accredited by the CDET and is on the CDET's Accredited Schools list.

London Studio Centre continues to be accredited by The Council for Dance Education and Training (CDET) and remains listed as one of CDET’s Accredited Schools. A representative attended London Studio Centre’s 2017 Spring Showcase performance at The Pentland Theatre, artsdepot and reported:

The Performance as a whole was of a very high level, and it was difficult, at times, to believe the students involved were only in their first or second year of training. This has to be a tribute to the teaching and staff within the school - CDET, 2017

Corridor 2London Studio Centre officially opened its new facilities at the start of the 2017 autumn term

And finally, after several years’ detailed consultation with the industry, staff, students and alumni, LSC was able to enhance the entire curriculum and in September 2017 rolled out the newly validated BA (Hons) Theatre Dance programme to new and continuing students. The new course structure enables students to follow specialist professional pathways in Classical Ballet, Contemporary Dance, Jazz Dance or Music Theatre from their first to final year, allowing more focus whilst still retaining and encouraging versatility and a breadth of training. As always, the development and delivery of the course is being closely monitored.

Office 1London Studio Centre now as over 40,000 sq ft of space in its artsdepot campus

This is just a snapshot of the successes that LSC has enjoyed over the last few months, and obviously does not include the many fantastic shows and performances that the college has produced. Whilst this is a great chance to reflect and rightly feel proud of the fantastic things London Studio Centre and its staff and students have achieved, it is also important to look forward to the year ahead and plan how the college can build upon these accomplishments and achieve further success. 


Gabrielle Parker becomes latest LSC alumni to join 'Cats'

Over forty London Studio Centre alumni have performed in the award-winning musical.

Having just graduated in July 2017, LSC alumna Gabrielle Parker has managed to secure herself the much-desired role of Victoria the White Cat in the UK and International tour of Cats. Featuring in multiple solos, the role of Victoria is incredibly demanding and requires flexibility and extensive ballet training. Although Gabrielle focussed on music theatre in her final year at London Studio Centre, the BA (Hons) Theatre Dance programme’s emphasises on versatility meant that Gabrielle continued to receive in-depth ballet training throughout her degree.

Gabrielle joins the ranks of a huge number of LSC alumni who have performed in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s award-winning musical.

Cats first opened in the West End at the New London Theatre in May 1981. A year later, LSC alumni Jacqueline Harman joined the cast to be the second person ever to play the role of Victoria, under the direction of Trevor Nunn. Jacqueline played Victoria up until 1986 when she switched to the role of Demeter for two years before taking on a swing role from 1988 to 1990. Jacqueline later performed in Chess and Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat in the West End before establishing the Jacqueline Harman School of Ballet in 1994.

Amanda Courtney Davies VictoriaAmanda Courtney-Davies as Victoria the White Cat in the West End

Amanda Courtney-Davies was the second LSC alumna to play Victoria in the West End. After joining the cast in 1988 to play Tantomile, she switched to Victoria for the 1989 and 1990 productions. She later appeared as Toni in Grease’s London revival in 1993 and as Rosie in the Royal National Theatre production of Oklahoma! in 1988.

1995 was a particularly big year for LSC alumni in Cats with Samantha Biddulph (Tantomile), Daniel Crossley (Bill Bailey), Damien Delaney (Bill Bailey), Belle Dowson (Swing), Leah-Sue Morland (Swing) and Kimberley Partridge (Jemima) playing in the West End and Mark Joslin (Swing), Lucy Middleton (Rumpleteaser), Robbie O’Reilly (Cassandra) and Rachel Pressland (Swing) on the UK Tour.

Cameron Ball Ziz Strallen Sophia Ragevelas Kathryn Barnes resizeCameron Ball, Zizi Strallen, Sophia Ragavelas and Kathryn Barnes in the Cats revival at the London Palladium

In 2002, Cats closed in the West End but was revived in 2014 at the London Palladium featuring alumni Cameron Ball (Admetus/Macavity), Kathryn Barnes (as Tantomile), Sophie Ragavelas (as Grizabella) and Zizi Strallen (as Demeter). Matthew Krzan joined the show in 2015 as Munkustrap and was even featured on the show poster.

Matt Krzan Cats tube poster 2015Spotted on the London Underground: Matthew Krzan as Munkustrap featured on the Cats poster in 2015 

Most recently Natalie Bennyworth joined the UK Tour in 2017 as Cassandra and, as previously mentioned, Gabrielle has now joined the UK and International tour, proving that LSC is still producing alumni that are of a consistently high-standard.

Listed below are over forty LSC alumni who have appeared in the West End and UK Touring performances of Cats. This does not include the many alumni who have appeared in international performances of the show and we are sure there are others we have missed, so please let us know if you have not been mentioned! London Studio Centre is extremely grateful for the fantastic opportunities this show has provided to our alumni.

LSC alumni who have appeared in West End and UK Touring performance of Cats:

Cameron Ball
Kathryn Barnes
Sharron Benson
Natalie Bennyworth
Samantha Biddulph
Lauren Brooke
Amanda Courtney-Davies
Daniel Crossley
Lindsey Dawson
Damien Delaney
Lisa Donmall
Belle Dowson
Douglas Franklin
Jye Frasca
Matthew Gould
Lorraine Graham
Jaqueline Harman
Julia Hinchcliffe
Neil Johnson
Adam Jones
Mark Joslin
Wendy Kitching
Matthew Krzan
Stephen Mear
Lucy Middleton
Rachel Mooney
Leah-Sue Morland
Zak Nemorin
Callum Nicol
Sophia Ragavelas
Robbie O’Reilly
Gabrielle Parker
Kimberley Partridge
Jason Pennycooke
Rachel Pressland
Richard Roe
Louie Spence
Zizi Strallen
Anne-Marie Summerell
Drew Varley
Bryn Walters
Anna Woodside
Katherine Whittard
Adelle Young

Liam Francis and Juan Gil star in spectacular Rambert triple-bill with ‘masterpiece’ choreography by INTOTO course-consultant Ben Duke

Under the artistic direction of Mark Baldwin (a current patron and governor of London Studio Centre), Rambert presents A Linha Curva, and other works, a triple-bill featuring London Studio Centre alumni Liam Francis (ex-INTOTO Dance) and Juan Gil (ex-Images Ballet Company), who both provide exceptional performances. The show features three unique and powerful pieces; the third of which, Goat, is choreographed by rising star Ben Duke who acts as course-consultant for the Contemporary Dance Professional Option and INTOTO Dance Company at London Studio Centre.

Juan Gil (far left) in SymbiosisJuan Gil (far left) in Symbiosis - Copyright Rambert Dance Company

Juan Gil trained at London Studio Centre with a full-scholarship and graduated in 2011. He was awarded the Bridget Espinosa Award for the most potential to succeed in Classical Ballet, having trained and toured with Images Ballet Company under the direction of Margaret Barbieri. He joined the Sarasota Ballet in Florida, under the direction of Iain Webb, and continued to work with Margaret Barbieri for five years, rising to the rank of Junior Principal. He has had featured roles in Frederick Ashton’s Marguerite and Armand, A Wedding Bouquet, Façade, Enigma Variations and Illuminations; George Balanchine’s Apollo and The Four Temperaments; Christopher Bruce’s Sergeant Early’s Dream; Vaslav Nijinsky’s L’après-midi d’un Faune; and Christopher Wheeldon’s The American. Juan joined Rambert in 2016.

Liam Francis in rehearsals for GoatLiam Francis in rehearsals for Goat - Copyright Rambert Dance Company

Whilst studying at LSC, Liam Francis also regularly performed the hip-hop dance theatre group ZooNation. In 2013 he became Resident Director and one of the choreographers for ZooNation Youth Company’s show Groove On Down The Road at the Southbank. In his graduating year, Liam was a member LSC’s contemporary dance company INTOTO Dance and performed works by Ana Lujan Sanchez, Wayne Parsons and Dam Van Huynh for their 2014 tour. After gaining a first class honours in his degree and receiving the LSC award for most outstanding performance in INTOTO Dance, Liam joined Rambert as an apprentice dancer in 2014. Whilst at Rambert, Liam has performed in Didy Veldman’s 3 Dancers, Mark Baldwin's Dark Arteries, Alexander Whitley’s Frames, Patricia Okenwa's Hydrargyrum and Malgorzata Dzierzon’s Flight.

Liam and Juan are not the first LSC alumni to have joined Rambert: Clemmie Sveaas, Yolande Yorke-Edgell and Rafael Bonachela have all performed with the company. Rafael even became an Associate Choreographer for Rambert until 2005, when he set up Bonachela Dance Company and later joined Sydney Dance Company as Artistic Director.

Liam Francis and Juan Gil with Daniel Davidson in Ghost DancesLiam Francis and Juan Gil with Daniel Davidson in Ghost Dances - Copyright Rambert Dance Company

Earlier this year, both Liam and Juan starred in Rambert’s critically acclaimed Ghost Dances, Christopher Bruce’s revival of his 1981 classic. They were both cast alongside Daniel Davidson as the iconic trio of “Ghost Dancers” and the show received much praise, with The Stage calling it “a triumphant return of a heritage work” and The Telegraph proclaiming the piece was “as powerful and as relevant as it ever was” and “magnificently performed”.

Liam and Juan both return to form in Rambert’s new show which features the following three pieces:

A Linha Curva: a Brazilian carnival-flavoured piece by Itzik Galili.

Symbiosis: a high velocity celebration of the Rambert dancers’ skills by acclaimed Greek choreographer Andonis Foniadakis.

Goat: a darkly funny and deeply moving Nina Simone-inspired piece by rising star and LSC course-consultant, Ben Duke.

Ben Duke in rehearsals, choreographing GoatBen Duke in rehearsals, choreographing Goat - Copyright Rambert Dance Company

Ben is the Co-Founder and Artistic Director of Lost Dog, a company that blends text, live music and movement to create dance works framed by stories and characters. Lost Dog’s work has toured nationally and internationally and was awarded first prize at the Burgos International Choreography competition, second prize at the prestigious Hanover choreography competition and The Place Prize for Dance for the duet, It Needs Horses. Ben also won the 2016 National Dance Award for Best Male Performer for his role in the production Paradise Lost (lies unopened beside me) and the work was nominated for a Total Theatre award and a Sky Arts South Bank Award. As well as his work for Lost Dog, Ben has directed and choreographed works for other companies including Barely Methodical Troupe (Kin), Scottish Dance Theatre (The Life and Times of Girl A), Dance Umbrella (The Difference Engine) and Phoenix Dance Theatre (Pave up Paradise). Ben has also choreographed for INTOTO Dance three times. As a performer, Ben has worked with Probe, Hofesh Shechter Company, The Gate Theatre, The National Theatre of Scotland, Glyndebourne Opera and Punchdrunk.

Ben joined London Studio Centre as course-consultant in 2016 and provides a critical partnership with the Contemporary Dance Course Director and Artistic Director of INTOTO Dance, Sue Booker. Together they work to expand and nourish the creative knowledge and practice of LSC’s contemporary dance students.

Goat 6Liam Francis in Goat - Copyright Rambert Dance Company

Goat is Ben Duke's first commission for Rambert and features Liam Francis as a ‘scape-goat’ figure. The piece has already received much critical acclaim:

Goat is a goddamn masterpiece" – The Stage

“Ben Duke's dance to the death is a searingly emotional joyride” – The Guardian

“Goat is Rambert in bold future-forward mode” – The Herald Scotland

“Funny, moving and perplexing in equally glorious measure.” – The Scotsman

Liam and Juan are also receiving praise for their performances in the show’s other two pieces, A Linha Curva and Symbiosis:

“I have never seen A Linha Curva danced better” – The Stage

“Rambert’s dancers who’ve been performing the work since 2009 are exemplary in combining Latin-inflected sass with meticulous speed” – The Guardian

“The dancers brought a cool intelligence and driving dynamic to the shifting moods, isolations and interactions of Symbiosis … It’s clever, complex” – The Herald Scotland 

A Linha CurvaA Linha Curva- Copyright Rambert Dance Company

A Linha Curva, and other works is at Salder’s Wells until Saturday 25th November 2017.

The show will also visit the Theatre Royal & Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham from Tuesday 27th February until Thursday 1st March 2018.

Liam Francis and London Studio Centre are also currently collaborating on a new show which will be brought to the Pentland Theatre, artsdepot on Saturday 13th January 2018. Liam Francis & Friends present I.D. will include two original pieces choreographed by Liam which will be performed by LSC alumni and dancers from Rambert. LSC alumni Ryan Ledger and Viv West will also be choreographing a piece each performed by current students. Tickets will soon be available on the artsdepot website and more information on the show will shortly be announced on our website.

Gemma and Danielle get their skates on to join Paul in Starlight Express

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Starlight Express first opened at the Apollo Victoria Theatre in the West End in 1984. Spawning international productions on Broadway and in Vegas, Japan and Australia, the West End show ran for a staggering 7,406 performances over 17 years before it eventually closed in January 2002. But the longest running production of the show is actually in Bochum, Germany where it first opened in June 1988 and, now it’s 29th year later, is still going strong!

Seen by more than 15 million people, Starlight Express is Germany’s most popular musical and currently features three London Studio Centre alumni. 

Paul Shipp as Purse in Starlight ExpressPaul Shipp as Purse in Starlight Express

Paul Shipp was the first to join the cast in 2007. After graduating from LSC in 2003, Paul performed as the Genie in the Mansfield Palace Theatre’s production of Aladdin before going on to perform in a number of West End musicals including Caspar The Musical, Grease and We Will Rock You. In 2004 he joined the cast of the Leeds City Varieties Music Hall production of Aladdin, but this time in the titular role. He could also been see dancing at BBC’s Party In The Park and at the Blue Peter and Children In Need charity galas and he even featured in adverts for Sky Sports. Paul has been part of Starlight’s cast for 10 years and during that time he has been the main actor for a number of characters including Krupp, Purse, Ruhrgold and Electra. He currently acts as a swing, covering the roles of Papa, Greaseball, Electra, Caboose, Dustin and Components.

Stage Starlight Express stage in Bochum, featuring the multi-level tracks and nine-tonne bridge which can rotate and can connect to all levels.

Gemma Archer and Danielle Lockwood both joined Starlight Express at the beginning of 2017.

Gemma was a member of London Studio Centre’s music theatre company, Seedtime, before she graduated in 2015. That same year, she moved to France to work at Disneyland Paris where she performed as a lead singer in Chanton La Reine De Neiges. In 2016, she returned to the UK to tour with Jackie The Musical before working as Dance Captain and Cover for Jack in Jack and the Beanstalk at Central Theatre, Chatham.

Danielle was also a member of Seedtime and featured in their production of Lucky Stiff. She performed as Ellewoods from Legally Blonde, Wednesday Addams from Addams Family and Vera from Stepping Out in Seedtime’s Mini Musicals Showcase. She graduated in 2016 and Starlight Express is her first professional musical theatre credit.

View of the 'tracks' that run through the audience in the Starlight Express theatre in BochumView of the 'tracks' that run through the audience in the Starlight Express theatre in Bochum.

Starlight Express is a unique musical in that the whole cast performs on roller skates around a track-like stage. Gemma had a pair of rollerblades as a child and Danielle tried an impromptu practice at a pop-up roller disco but neither had any real roller skating experience before joining the show. But that didn’t matter as the show runs ‘Skate School’, an intensive skating training course designed to get everyone up to speed.

“It was extremely difficult and frustrating, but hilarious and exciting all at the same time,” says Danielle. “It's hands down the most rewarding thing to be able to successfully learn a new skill and put it into practise on a stage like this.”

“As a trained dancer and singer learning a new skill from scratch is tough,” says Gemma. “It didn't just happen. It took months of blood, blisters and bruises! When I got to opening night, I'd never felt a sense of achievement like it.”

Gemma, Danielle and the rest of the class of 'Skate School 2017'Gemma, Danielle and the rest of the class of 'Skate School 2017' on set in Bochum, Germany.

Due to the nature of the show, the girls were well aware of the risk of injury that comes with performing in Starlight Express.

“You have to be so aware of everything at all times,” says Danielle, “We don't say things like 'break a leg', we say 'stay safe' and 'safe race'.

However, the girls say that the thrill skating at high speeds around the track gives them a great feeling of adrenaline and excitement that “overrides how tired you are, how much your body aches or how bad of a day you’re having.” They also get a real rush and sense of achievement when they finish a show unscathed.

Danielle in her swing roles: Top Left - Ashley, Top Right - Buffy, Bottom Left - Volta, Bottom Middle - Joule, Bottom Right - WrenchDanielle in her swing roles:
Top Left - Ashley, Top Right - Buffy,
Bottom Left - Volta, Bottom Middle - Joule, Bottom Right - Wrench.

Due to the higher risk of injury compared to a normal musical, Starlight Express does allow a greater opportunity for its ensemble members to swing as main characters while the main actors recover. Danielle swings as five of the characters; Ashley, Buffy, Volta, Joule and Wrench. Gemma Has recently started swinging as Dinah, Ashley, Wrench and Volta and frequently swings as Pearl, the main female lead!

Gemma in her swing roles: Far Left - Pearl, Middle Left - Dinah, Middle Right - Buffy, Far Right - WrenchGemma in her swing roles:
Far Left - Dinah, Middle Left - Ashley, Middle Right - Wrench, Far Right - Volta.

When asked what advice they would give to aspiring music theatre performers, Danielle says,
“You HAVE to have thick skin and be open minded. Utilise and learn from every audition you go to and don't give up. You have to really want it and give it everything you've got.

Gemma says,
“Believe in yourself. There is no be all and end all job, be open minded.”

Gemma in her swing role of PearlGemma in her swing role of Pearl.

Finally we asked the girls what skills they learnt at LSC that prepared them for the professional world.

Gemma answered,
“Professionalism, integrity and a pretty good brain. I genuinely think I owe a lot of my swing brain to the Matt Mattox technique.”

Danielle said,
"Amongst the obvious skills like technique and stage presence, I really felt like I was prepared to face the outside world by the time I graduated. In 3rd year especially, we were taught what to expect from auditions in both singing and dance rounds and even had opportunities to put what we had learnt into practice in workshops with industry professionals and agent week. Without LSC I wouldn't have been able to achieve what I have done so thank you to everyone at London Studio Centre who helped make me into the performer I am now."