A West End actor is helping Wearside’s future stars by becoming patron of a Sunderland stage school.
Gary Watson, 32, from Plains Farm, has 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.
Now he’s going back to where it all 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 school, which he attended from the ages of 11 to 18, he’ll be holding a West End workshop for the students this Saturday.
Gary said: “Me and Kathleen have been in regular contact since I left the school. Over the years, I’ve done a lot of work with the students and I’ve always really enjoyed it.
“Kathleen contacted me a weeks ago and asked if I’d be interested in becoming patron and I jumped at the chance. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it hadn’t been for attending Kathleen’s stage school and the great start it gave me.”
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 said: “We did four shows a year at the Empire and it really is one of the most beautiful theatres in the country. It gave my career a great start and really whet my appetite for the industry.”
Gary moved to London at 18 where he studied at Laine Theatre Arts before embarking on a career in the spotlight.
He’s currently starring in a new musical, Strictly Ballroom, which is based on the Baz Luhrmann film.
After premiering the show in the UK, Gary is on a short break before taking the show to Canada which has given him time to pop home to Sunderland to host the workshop and catch up with family.
Speaking about this weekend’s workshop, he said: “I decided to do the free workshop to give a real taste of the West End. It’s important that people in the North East, or other areas, know that there isn’t a barrier to getting to London and making it in musical theatre. It may seem far, location-wise, but you can get there as long as you have the drive and determination.”