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A picture of the cast of the girl in the hat

News story

Professional musical production gives students chance to shine in university first

Publish date: January 27, 2022

Students at Edge Hill have been given the chance to shine in a brand-new professional musical, a first for the University. 

Students at Edge Hill have been given the chance to shine in a brand-new professional musical, a first for the University. 

Musical theatre students starred in and worked backstage on the world premiere of The Girl in the Hat at The Arts Centre as part of a new initiative by the University to provide students with a “real world” professional production experience. 

Written and produced by professional composer Ollie Hancock and writer Ed Payne, their debut production showcases the wild, exotic and highly emotional life of fashion editor, style muse and talent spotter Isabella Blow. 

Nick Sanders, programme leader and senior lecturer in musical theatre, said: “This has been an unrivalled opportunity for our students.

“To try a variety of roles – acting, lighting, set and costume design, make-up, stage managing, directing and choreography – on a production of this scale, as part of their course, is an Edge Hill first.” 

He described the project as a “brand new Page to Stage concept” which supports new musical theatre writing and is now embedded in the third-year production module. 

The collaboration – strengthened by the involvement of experienced West End musical director Andrew Corcoran, currently an associate tutor at Edge Hill – provided rare experience for the students and professionals alike. 

“The opportunity to star in a premiere of a new musical, creating a role for the first time, is an opportunity afforded to very few musical theatre actors,” he added.

“I’m also an advocate of new musical writing so I want to create opportunities for musical theatre writers and composers to get their work seen and heard, which in a commercial musical theatre setting is not usually available.” 

Picture of Musical Theatre student Kyle Smith in the girl in the hat show
Musical theatre student Kyle Smith as King Charles I

Kyle Smith, a musical theatre student from Stoke-on-Trent, played King Charles I on the first night and Isabella’s first husband ‘Nick’ on the second. 

He said the experience and his time at Edge Hill had improved his confidence and encouraged him to pursue performance after graduation; he is now exploring a course in contemporary pantomime practice. 

The 21-year-old said: “The best thing about this show is I’m introducing this role for the first time; it’s never been performed before. I might never have a chance like this again.

“Also, the collaborative work between everybody has been really, really good; this is the first time we’ve been able to perform together because of Covid.

“To work with Andrew has been really reassuring, considering he’s been the only professional we’ve been able to talk to about the music, he’s guided us through, he’s just amazing.

“And it’s very unusual to be able to meet Ed and Ollie, the writers of the show; the whole experience has been surreal, amazing.” 

Ollie Hancock, one half of the musical’s writing partnership, confirmed how invaluable the experience was for the students and praised the open creative process they were able to encourage at Edge Hill. 

“I really think the students got a lot more out of workshopping and taking ownership of something totally new than perhaps rehashing an old dusty classic.

“They helped start something totally new, that they can call their own – it’s an opportunity that doesn’t come along often in the industry.” 

Students on Edge Hill’s Musical Theatre degree work towards professional standards, creating and reflecting critically on musical theatre performance practices. 

The Department of Creative Arts offers intellectually stimulating, exciting and industry-relevant degree programmes in a broad variety of interdisciplinary subject areas also including Animation, Dance, Drama, Film, Media, Music Production and Television. 

Explore a variety of other events coming up at The Arts Centre, from comedy and dance performances to film and live music.

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