West End Stage is the ultimate theatre summer school for anyone aged eight to 21. The incredible week of classes from professionals will teach you how to become a top triple-threat singer, dancer and performer, culminating in the chance to make your spectacular West End debut at a world-famous West End theatre.
Along the way, you will make a special trip to a West End musical and meet people who will become lifelong friends.
Bethan Seaman attended West End Stage summer school in 2019. It was the second time she had taken part, having had so much fun the first time. She remembers how she felt before it all started: “I have to admit I was a bit nervous to go and spend a whole week with new people,” she says. But as soon as she found her accommodation, met her super-friendly chaperones and got to know the people who would soon become her best friends, all that nervousness disappeared.
“I knew there was nothing to worry about, as every chaperone had a smile on their face, which is really comforting – especially if you live far away from London, as I do,” she says.
’We cheered each other on and motivated each other to learn the moves, which made the week even better’
The aim of West End Stage is not only to take part in singing, dancing and acting masterclasses, but also to build confidence, make friends and – most importantly – have fun! Everyone who takes part gears up for a big performance at the end of the week on a West End stage. For Bethan, the idea of learning dances, songs and a script in less than a week was daunting at first but, she says, everyone learned to be super supportive.
“We cheered each other on and motivated each other to learn the moves, which I think made the week even better.” Plus, she adds: “If you practise with your flatmates at night, even if it’s for 10 minutes, it really does pay off. Here’s a tip we all learnt, though: don’t stay up till past midnight chatting on the first night, because there’s a long day ahead!”
What was particularly thrilling for Bethan was that the teachers worked with the group as if they were putting on a professional West End show. Even by the middle of the week, she says, the show was already looking amazing.
So what sort of classes did she attend? There were singing lessons from people who had performed in Jesus Christ Superstar, dance lessons with the dance captain from The Book of Mormon, and acting lessons from a former Hamilton cast member. All the teachers were full of incredible advice, and Bethan particularly enjoyed the Q&A sessions, finding out all kinds of useful and inspirational things from industry professionals. “We could ask anything, ranging from what their most embarrassing onstage moment was to where they trained. It was so useful,” she says.
Throughout the week, Bethan and her classmates prepared to record a cover of You Will Be Found from Dear Evan Hansen, not only singing it but also making a music video. On top of that were masterclasses, in which Bethan and her classmates learned how to perform numbers from shows such as Come from Away, and had the chance to ask the original Harry Potter from The Cursed Child exactly how all those magic spells were created on stage.
’We could ask industry professionals anything – it was so useful’
And as if that weren’t enough, they were treated to special performances from Layton Williams, star of Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, and from the cast of Wicked singing For Good.
As well as the intensive masterclasses and the preparations for the end-of-week show, the summer school is also packed full of fun social activities. There are movie nights, an annual disco, even a trip to a West End show. “We went to see Come from Away, which was amazing, I enjoyed it so much,” Bethan says. For older students, there is free time to explore London and the West End, too.
Then came the end of the week, and crunch time for the big performance on a West End stage. “We were all so nervous,” explains Bethan, “but one of our teachers explained how professionals deal with nerves, and she led us through some meditation.”
And suddenly Bethan and her friends were on the stage of Her Majesty’s Theatre, using the same dressing rooms as the cast of one of the most famous musicals in the world: The Phantom of the Opera.
Bethan remembers that day very clearly: “We sat in the audience and watched the other groups perform, getting to see what everyone else had been working on during the week. Then before we knew it, it was our turn. One last-minute good luck from the teachers and then backstage we went. I don’t think I’ve been so nervous and excited for a curtain to rise. Performing with my friends – my best friends – it was surreal. I loved every moment of it. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience, everything went perfectly.”
’I can’t believe I got the chance to perform on a famous West End stage’
When it came time to say goodbye, that’s when it hit Bethan just how much she’d learnt and experienced during her week at West End Stage. “There were many tears, knowing that some of us may not see each other for a while. We all wanted to do it again. Saying thank you to our teachers was difficult because I didn’t know how to show how thankful I was. But saying goodbye to my flatmates was the hardest, and this just shows how amazing West End Stage is. I met some of these girls only a week ago and now I couldn’t stand to let them go.”
After her amazing experience, Bethan is full of tips for anyone attending West End Stage summer school. “Think about what you will need for the week,” she says. “Towels and water bottles for dance are so important. Also bring tea for your voice, just to be safe.” Above all, though, she says: “Jump into the experience, don’t let your nerves get in the way. My advice is to smile and say yes no matter what, because everyone is so supportive.”
What does Bethan remember most about her week with West End Stage? “There are loads of highlights: I loved learning about the industry from people who actually work in it. The teachers gave me tips and tricks I will always remember. I made the best friends I could imagine, and I love looking back on the photos of us, because they always make me smile. But most of all, I can’t believe I got the chance to perform on a famous West End stage. It felt like all my performing dreams had come true.”