A Sunderland-born actor who’s stepped into the shoes of one of the greatest musicians of all time has been giving students tips on how to shine on stage.
Michael Pickering, 30, from Teal Farm, Washington, is back in his home city for a fortnight as the alternate Frankie Valli in Jersey Boys, which is proving a sell out success at Sunderland Empire.
He first discovered his passion for musical theatre at Thornhill School and he’s gone back to the classroom to help inspire budding stage stars.
He took part in a workshop at Sunderland College to talk of his experiences in West End musicals including Wicked, Grease, Mamma Mia and Jesus Christ Superstar.
He met performing arts students, who are studying BTEC Extended Diploma in Acting and Foundation Degree in Drama programmes, to offer them advice about breaking into the industry, as well as revealing how he made it in the competitive world of acting.
The former Barnes Junior School pupil, said: “Coming to Sunderland College and speaking to the students brought back memories of when I was at school and we were all trying to decide what path we wanted to take. It’s an exciting but difficult time as there are so many options and they are still finding themselves.
“I’ve been through everything that they are going through now, and I feel it’s important to share some of my expertise with young performers to help them make some of those difficult decisions.”
The session was held in Sunderland College’s Arts Academy at Bede Campus, a state-of-the-art building which opened last September and features a theatre, drama studios, music studios, dance studios, and visual arts, photography, media and graphic design facilities.
Michael added: “The Arts Academy is a brilliant learning space. In order to train students you need to give them the best facilities – they make the students more passionate and it gives them the drive they need to help them succeed in their career.”
Gemma Whelam, performing arts lecturer at Sunderland College, said: “We were thrilled to welcome a West End star to the college and the students gained so much from Michael’s visit. He has genuinely inspired our students to follow their dreams, and he offered lots of valuable practical tips which will be very beneficial to them in future.
“At Sunderland College, we organise lots of masterclasses and workshops for our performing arts students throughout the year, and we are hopefully looking forward to welcoming Michael back in the future to lead some musical theatre sessions.”
•Jersey Boys is at Sunderland Empire until Saturday