After the AGM, Mercury Musical Developments invited Julia MacKenzie to take a Sondheim Masterclass with Royal Academy of Music Students. Known well for her role in the TV series Miss Marple, we must not forget that this multi-talented performer was one of Sondheim's favourite musical theatre performers, who brought to life the character of Mrs Lovett in the National Theatre's Sweeney Todd, for which she was awarded and Olivier for Best Actress in 1994. Among her many gongs was also an Olivier Award for her performance as Best Actress in Guys and Dolls in 1983, London Evening Standard Theatre Award for Best Actress in Woman in Mind and a Tony Award nomination for Best Actress in Side by Side by Sondheim in 1977.
Karen Rabinowitz, the Course Leader of the Post Graduate Musical Theatre Course at RAM, sat with the students. She was the director of our I Capture the Castle showcase last summer and it was lovely to catch up with her and let her know the good news about the show.
It was a rare treat to watch Julia MacKenzie, this mistress of the Sondheim musical, put these young and very talented singers through their paces. Their response to her direction was a lesson in itself for many of the Mercury Writers, who seemed surprised at how maleable they were and how brilliant they were at re-interpreting a song after she had explained more clearly the impulse behind it. It was difficult to hold back the delighted laughter as we watched glimpses of her Mrs Lovett seeping out through her direction of By The Sea and I am sure I wasn't the only one who longed to hear her sing it for us. Below is a You Tube video of Julia singing The Worst Pies in London in the National Theatre Production of Sweeney Todd - sadly I couldn't find By The Sea.
The star performer of the evening was Alex Young, winner of the Sondheim Award last year. Alex played the part of Leda in out first I Capture the Castle Workshop at RAM and is definitely someone to watch.