April 2019

Students experience 'a whole new world' of West End theatre

On Tuesday 19th and Wednesday 20th March, 42 students and six accompanying staff took part in a two day Performing Arts experience in the West End of London.

While in the capital, students from the school’s Music and Dance departments were treated to a spectacular performance of the hit musical Aladdin and later participated in Performing Arts workshops at the world-famous Pineapple Dance Studios.  

[Please scroll down for Videos and Image Gallery]

After a slightly later than planned departure from Withernsea on Tuesday morning, the coach made good time to arrive at the group’s hotel on High Holborn just before 1.30pm. With check in not until 3, there was time for the group to dump their luggage and take in the sights (and shops!) of Covent Garden.

For many of the students, it was their first time visiting London and being trusted with ‘free-time’ within the boundaries of the Covent Garden Piazza offered a welcome taste of independence in the country’s bustling capital. 

After stretching their legs (and their purses!) it was back to the hotel for formal check in. This process was surprisingly quick and easy thanks to the accommodating staff at the hotel and excellent pre-planning on Mrs Hughes’ part.  

Throughout the majority of the two-day stay, the group were chaperoned between destinations by a tour guide from London Theatre Tours (LTT). The guide’s first important job of the tour was to ensure the students found their way from their hotel to a restaurant on The Strand in time for their pre-theatre meal.

Walking through the busy streets of the West End en-route to eat, the group managed to make time for some brief sightseeing including a quick pit stop for a photo opportunity in Trafalgar Square. 

After recharging their batteries with a buffet meal at Pizza Hut, the group made their way to the Prince Edward Theatre for the evening performance of Aladdin. With only five months to go until the show closes after a hugely successful three year run, the students were grateful to have been given the opportunity to see the production.

The show itself was a mesmerizing spectacle of magical scenery, dazzling choreography and stunning vocal performances which captivated staff and students alike. The star of the show for many was undoubtedly the Genie, played by American actor Trevor Dion Nicholas (a star of the original Broadway production) who delivered an energetic comedic performance throughout.  The show also featured former Sugababes vocalist Jade Ewen in a lead role as Princess Jasmine, plus a world-class chorus of dancers and vocalists.

After the show, and with tiredness quickly kicking in, the group headed back to the hotel for a well-deserved rest after what had been a long but exciting day.

The following morning, the wake-up calls began around 7:30am for the first of two sittings for breakfast. While the Music students celebrated being the first down to eat, the Dance students were celebrating an extra three quarters of an hour in bed!

By 10.00am the group were all packed and ready to check out of the hotel. With their luggage left securely at a sister hotel to avoid having to drag it around London, the students made their way to Pineapple Studios. Arriving there a little earlier than planned, and with a number of shops including H&M and the official Pineapple store close by, the group enjoyed an unexpected half an hour of retail therapy before their booked timeslot at the studios.

Upon arrival at Pineapple, the students were split in to two groups – one of dancers and the other of musicians. Leading the musician’s workshop was actress and singer Amanda Posener – an experienced performer who has appeared in numerous West End shows including Avenue Q, Bad Girls and Rent.

The workshop began with an exploration of breathing and vocal warm-up techniques designed to relax and prepare vocalists for performing. Once the necessary warm-ups had been completed, Amanda worked with the students on a rendition of perhaps the most famous song from both the stage and screen versions of Aladdin - ‘A Whole New World’. Singing in unison, the group quickly got to grips with the song and tackled the highs and lows of the melody line admirably.

Over in Studio 2, the dance students enjoyed a choreography workshop led by Kayleigh Thadani – an actress and dancer who is currently a member of the ensemble cast of Aladdin.

With only a limited time at the studio (approximately one hour) Kayleigh wasted no time in putting the dancers through their paces by teaching them elements of choreography from Aladdin’s ‘Arabian Nights’. Just over 12 hours previously, the group had watched this very routine being performed on the stage of the Prince Edward Theatre and it was therefore quite surreal to now see them performing it alongside a star of the show.

Towards the end of the dance workshop, Kayleigh sat down with the students and talked through her experience of being a performer. She answered students’ questions about her career and spoke of the hard work involved in securing roles and the commitment needed to succeed. It was an invaluable insight in to the life of an experienced performer and offered the students a balanced view of life on the stage.

Both workshops were a resounding success and were thoroughly enjoyed by the students who took part. Footage from both the dance and music workshops can be viewed in the ‘Day Two’ video below.

Leaving the studios just after midday, the group had approximately two hours free time ahead of them before having to return to the coach for the journey home. With spending money still burning a hole in the pockets of some, and with an appetite worked up by the workshops, the group returned to Covent Garden for lunch and a final walk around the shops.

Boarding the coach at 2.00pm, the students were tired but elated after what had been a hugely successful experience.

In a joint comment, Year 11 students Gabby Clark, Emma Lusmore and Jess Rutter said of the trip: ‘It was a fantastic experience. Seeing Aladdin was one of the highlights – it was magical. 

We really enjoyed the dance workshop and the Q&A session with Kayleigh. We liked hearing about what they did in the show and what life is like as a performer, which was really helpful if you want a career in musical theatre.

We also really enjoyed the free time in Covent Garden and it was great to have the freedom to walk around independently and do our own thing.’

The trip was organised by Teacher of Dance Jamie Hughes who commented: ‘Our students, as always, were a credit to themselves and to the school. It was a real pleasure taking them on this trip and I know they all enjoyed the experience.

I am delighted that we have been able to offer our students an opportunity to not only watch a West End production, but also to meet and engage with professional actors and singers. Experiences such as these are invaluable for our young performers, particularly those who aspire to achieve careers in the same professions.

My thanks go to the students for their exemplary behaviour; to the staff who accompanied them on this trip and finally to parents and carers for their continuing support.’

This year’s trip was a welcome return for the London Performing Arts trip after an absence of a number of years. Following the success of this year’s trip, it is hoped that this experience will once again become an annual opportunity for the students of Withernsea High School.


Day One: Filmed on Tuesday 19th March, this video captures the students spending time in and around the West End of London before attending the evening performance of Aladdin at the Prince Edward Theatre.

Direct Link (YouTube): https://youtu.be/vPxBsDaS3sw 


Day Two: Filmed on Wednesday 20th March, this video captures the students taking part in Music and Dance workshops at Pineapple Studios with West End performers Amanda Posener and Kayleigh Thadani.

Direct Link (YouTube): https://youtu.be/RTpLahcIjOU


Image Gallery

ABOVE: The group spent time exploring Covent Garden ahead of hotel check in on Day One.

ABOVE: It's impossible to go to London without taking a photo at a well-known landmark! Just before a rain shower, the group huddle together in Trafalgar Square.

ABOVE: 'Magic Awaits!' Mr Fryer and student Harvey Green pictured in front of a poster for 'Aladdin' outside Covent Garden Underground Station.

ABOVE: Another location, another group photo! Behind the group is the Prince Edward Theatre which was their destination for Aladdin.

ABOVE: Amanda Posener takes the Music students through various warm-ups and vocal exercises.

ABOVE: Members of the Music group.

ABOVE: Mr Beattie was clearly pleased that a camera was trained on him while he tried to sing sang!

ABOVE: 'A Whole New World' - the students get to grips with the most famous song from Aladdin.

ABOVE: Kayleigh Thadani leads the choreography for 'Arabian Nights'.

ABOVE: Members of the dance group strike a pose.

ABOVE: 'Anyone for Pizza?'

ABOVE: The Dance group pose with Kayleigh Thadani in Studio 2 at Pineapple.

ABOVE: Time for another quick group shot outside Pineapple Studios.  

ABOVE: Jumping for joy in Covent Garden!