West End star inspires Sunderland youngsters

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A West End actor spent time putting young performers through their paces in Sunderland.

Gary Watson, returned to his native Wearside to hold a workshop at his former dance school, where he has just become the patron.

West End star, Gary Watson, holding a workshop in Sunderland.

West End star, Gary Watson, holding a workshop in Sunderland.

The 32-year-old, from Plains Farm, said he jumped at the chance to become patron of the Kathleen Davis Stage School where he was nurtured from a young age.

And, Kathleen Davis, who has run the dance school for 40 years, said she was thrilled that Gary, who has accomplished so much, had agreed to be the patron, giving the young people a fresh, current role model to look up to.

Gary had appeared on London’s prestigious stages countless times, as well as those across the globe, with lead roles in shows including Jersey Boys, Cats, Matilda, Les Misérables, Mamma Mia, Finding Neverland and A Chorus Line.

While in Sunderland he gave the eager young performers at the dance school a taste of his latest production, Strictly Ballroom, which will soon be heading to Canada.

Actor Gary Watson running a workshop at the Kathleen Davis Stage School.

Actor Gary Watson running a workshop at the Kathleen Davis Stage School.

He said: "When Kathleen asked me if I would be a patron, it was really a no-brainer, I jumped at the chance."

The actor said he has always had fantastic support from the dance school and is delighted to be given the opportunity to inspire other young people who was to work in the industry.

He said: "When I was starting out it was a little bit of the Billy Elliot idea, that people from the North East couldn't be successful in the industry.

"But, I want to show these youngsters that people in the North East can do it, there are a lot of people from the North East working in lots of roles in the West End.

"If you have the desire and determination, you can do it."

Kathleen, who currently has 200 students, aged from three to 19, said: "I was thrilled when Gary agreed to become a patron.

"I think it is wonderful for the students to have someone who is young and current and actually working in the West End, something they can aspire to."

l began, at the Kathleen Davis Stage School in High Street West, to help future musical theatre actors on the path to stardom.

To celebrate becoming patron of the High Street West school, which he attended from the ages of 11 to 18, Gary spent the morning with the students.

Gary’s formative years saw him juggle classes at Thornhill School with attending Kathleen’s stage school, which gave him the chance to learn the ropes on the Sunderland Empire stage in amateur productions.

He moved to London at 18 where he studied at Laine Theatre Arts before embarking on a career in the spotlight.