Broadway and West End star Ruthie Henshall (Les Misérables, Chicago, Billy Elliot) will open a new drama school located an hour and a half outside of London in Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk. The school, which will offer a diploma at the end of a three-year course of study, is a collaboration between Henshall and her business partner and music supervisor Paul Schofield. Educator Gary Willis will head up the academic staff. Titled CAST, the program will begin in September 2023.
Henshall hopes that CAST will give students needed skills for success both onstage and off. "A major part of our training at CAST is about staying relevant within a business that continues to shift daily," says Henshall in a statement. "I am lucky enough to have been able to call on an illustrious panel of rising stars and musical theatre legends to develop a course and ethos that best serves our students as they start their journeys in this new world. Our 'Icons' will remain at the heart of what we do, whether this is offering their invaluable personal experiences to inform our curriculum or teaching regular workshops and taking Q&As, making them part of our extended faculty."
Among those "Icons" will be Les Misérables and Miss Saigon composer Claude-Michel Schönberg and Olivier-winning Mary Poppins choreographer Stephen Mear. Says Schönberg, "Only practical experience in our industry can give you a complete understanding of what it takes to succeed and sustain a career in the world of musical theatre. With strong ties to industry professionals and Ruthie at the helm, this is what CAST will offer all its students."
The program looks to accept 25 students per year, charging £10,000 annually in tuition for the three-year program. Unlike many arts training programs, CAST will encourage students to perform publicly throughout their training. The curriculum will include instruction on core acting techniques, ballet, jazz, tap, Estill vocal technique, vocal repertoire, and ensemble singing, along with topics on non-performance subjects like surviving as a freelancer, social media, and more.
CAST will accept applications from students worldwide at RHCAST.co.uk. The school has waived application fees for a limited time.