The Principality of Wales has a distingished musical heritage steeped in the tradition of male voice choirs while also sharing very close links with the world of musical theatre, having provided the West End with a host of its current, recent and past star performers. So it seems perfectly apt that the Land Of Song's premiere competitoon for discovering and honouring young musical theatre talent should be organized by a male voice choir (the Dunvant Male Choir) and sponsored by the Principality Building Society.
Celebrating the tenth year of the annual Principality Building Society Welsh Musical Theatre Young Singer Of The Year, the final of the 2012 contest was held at the Taliesin Theatre, Swansea, on April 14.
The contest's judges and audience were treated to a very high standard of performance from the five young finalists: Whitchurch High School student Giorgia Warsama; Guildford School of Acting student Steffan Harri Jones, a farmer's son from North Wales; Swansea native Robert Quibell; Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts student and former BBC "Over The Rainbow" esrtwhile Dorothy, Bronte Barbe; and Neath-born GSA student, Michael Rees.
The contestants' varied programmes ran the gamut of musical theatre repertoire - from Rodgers & Hammerstein and MerEdith Wilson to Sondheim and Kooman and Dimond - taken from musicals as diverse as 110 In The Shade, Lucky Stiff and Next To Normal.
While judges Tim Richards, Michael Morwood and Claire Hammacott deliberated, the musical theatre songfest continued as the prestigious Dunvant Male Choir delivered a set of choral performances from Les Miserables, Wildhorn and Murphy's The Civil War and the classic Romberg and Hammerstein operetta, The New Moon - they were vocal Stout Hearted Men indeed.
Then came the moment of truth - the announcement of the winner of the contest: Michael Rees. The 20 year old actor/singer earned the title after giving a highly accomplished and varied set of performances: an assured delivery of the Act One closer from Sondheim's Company, "Marry Me A Little"; an exquisitely beautiful rendering of West Side Story's "Maria"; a charming and heartfelt performance of "Run Away With Me" from Kerrigan and Lowdermilk's The Unauthorized Biography Of Samantha Brown; and a genuine vocal tour de force in his final number - "Till I Hear You Sing" from Love Never Dies.
Previous winners of the coveted title of Welsh Musical Theatre Young Singer Of The Year include Connie Fisher (Wonderful Town, The Sound Of Music), Hayley Gallivan (The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Spring Awakening), Kit Orton (currently wowing audiences as Lancelot in the Spamalot UK tour) and 2011 Olivier Award winner David Thaxton (Love Never Dies, Passion). These would appear to be large footsteps to have to follow - but on the evidence of his performances at the Taliesin Theatre, there would appear to be no reason why Michael Rees should not be able to begin to take such steps himself.