Musical theatre star Colm Wilkinson has launched a major new musical theatre training initiative in Ireland, which is being backed by performers including Rachel Tucker, Fra Fee and Killian Donnelly.
Spanning both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, it is hoped the newly formed Irish Youth Musical Theatre will nurture new musical theatre talent and “help bridge the gap to their potential careers”.
It will run a range of short courses and masterclasses, as well as stage an annual flagship production, with young people receiving tutoring and mentoring from established performers. These include Come from Away stars Tucker and David Shannon, Donnelly, currently starring in the UK tour of The Phantom of the Opera, and The Ferryman and Translations star Fra Fee, all of whom are also ambassadors for the project.
Shannon said: “I think we have a responsibility here in Ireland to invest in our future performers and we need to start at a young age, and why not do it here?”
The Irish Youth Musical Theatre is being run in partnership with the Royal Irish Academy of Music. Wilkinson, the original Jean Valjean in Les Misérables, will be the company’s patron, while theatre director Séimí Campbell will act as its artistic director.
Campbell described the launch as “a truly exciting development for musical theatre as a whole on our island”, praising the Royal Irish Academy for “fully supporting and recognising musical theatre as an art form”.
In its first year, the company will hold a series of masterclasses featuring West End performers, which will take place in Belfast, Derry, Dublin, Cork and Galway.
The news comes amid ongoing conversations calling for more musical theatre training opportunities in Ireland.
In 2016, proposals from Equity to create a dedicated drama school in Northern Ireland failed to gain support from some performers, including Tucker.
They raised concerns over the viability of setting up an equivalent drama school to the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, as Equity had proposed.