Taking to the Sunderland stage is a real experience

Sunderland Empire Stage Experience production of Bugsy Malone!  Left to right; Jennifer Bullock as Tallulah, Jake O'Halloran as Fat Sam, Adam Hunter as Bugsy Malone, Sophie Jobson as Blousy Brown, Stuart Thompson as Dandy Dan and Hollie Coldwells the Gangsters Moll.
Sunderland Empire Stage Experience production of Bugsy Malone! Left to right; Jennifer Bullock as Tallulah, Jake O'Halloran as Fat Sam, Adam Hunter as Bugsy Malone, Sophie Jobson as Blousy Brown, Stuart Thompson as Dandy Dan and Hollie Coldwells the Gangsters Moll.
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MINI Marilyn Monroes and budding Brad Pitts are being encouraged to take their turn in their spotlight.

The Sunderland Empire launches its annual Stage Experience on Tuesday and wannabe actors and actresses are invited to come along and learn more about the scheme.

Each year, the High Street West venue hands over the stage to nine to 25-year-olds who are given the chance to star in, stage and produce their own show.

This year’s show, Bugsy Malone, proved a huge success and the Empire hopes next year’s show, to be announced on Tuesday, should be just as popular.

The 2012 two-week theatre school will run from July 23 to August 4.

It gives participants the chance to work alongside a professional director, musical director, choreographer and backstage crew to train in singing, dancing, acting and technical theatre, before taking to the stage for four live performances.

Gemma Clough, creative learning manager at the Empire, said: “As well as giving young people the chance to work on acting and choreography, it also focuses on the technical side with a professional stage management and theatre crew.

“There’s not many courses that do that.

“This isn’t an amateur show either. It’s a professionally-produced big West End-style musical.”

Now in its seventh year, Stage Experience has successfully produced productions from Thoroughly Modern Millie, We Will Rock You and West Side Story to Boogie Nights, Oliver and Bugsy Malone.

It has seen many past participants use their experience from the project to progress their studies onto West End theatre schools and even TV fame, including 19- year-old Jessica Robinson from Middlesbrough, who has since starred in the BBC’s search for a Dorothy, Over The Rainbow.

Gemma added: “The participants get so much from the show. It’s not all about technical skills or performing, it’s about self-confidence and self-esteem.

“Some start the show quite shy, but by the end have made new friends.

“There are so many talented kids in the North East and this is about celebrating that.

“Quite a few use it as a platform to go on to drama school, but for many who aren’t interested in pursuing a career in performing arts it’s an escape from everyday life.”

Twitter: @sunechokaty