YORK actor, director and choreographer Sam Rippon has won a place at the Royal Academy of Music, London, to study for an MA in musical theatre from September.
For the past three years, he has been reading for a BSc in Government and History at the LSE (London School of Economics).
During that time, nevertheless, Sam, has kept his love of theatre aflame by performing and directing while president of the LSE Drama Society.
“A one-year prestigious and intensive MA course was an attractive option,” he says. “Musical theatre has been of immense importance to me ever since I first stepped on stage in York Stage Musicals’ production of Oliver! over a decade ago.
“It has been an essential part of my life, but often a subordinate one, based in extra-curricular activities. The decision to go and undertake this course is motivated by a long-term desire to put musical theatre first in my life, and to build the skills, connections, and foundations necessary to enter a career in the theatrical world.”
Sam, from Heslington, had a choice to make. “I’d received offers from the Guildford School of Acting and Mountview [Academy of Theatre Arts] too, but chose the course at the Royal Academy for its prestige and first-class alumni network.
“I was humbled to receive offers from all three of the places I auditioned for, but RAM felt, from the first audition, like the place that I wanted to be, and which would suit my existing skill set.”
Sam, 22, first auditioned at the Royal Academy last December with a 15-minute presentation of his prepared performances, before being invited to recall in April. “As I was based in London at university, it was easy to make my way to the academy to audition, but little did I know that my recall would have to be from right in my living room,” he says.
“Due to the Coronavirus outbreak, our recall was adjusted to be a video audition, for which I was required to record my performances, a video about myself and some skill-based work.
“So, my living room turned into a makeshift recording studio with my phone carefully balanced on top of a step ladder!”
Recording performances was not something Sam found particularly enjoyable. “Perhaps, as a stage performer, the thrill of what I do is that it is live and changes, even lightly, each time. Having to get one perfect take, that I was happy with, was not an easy thing to do!” he recalls.
“Final decisions were made following these video submissions, and I was informed of the outcome at the end of April.”
Will Sam be able to begin in September, given the on-going Covid-19 scenario? “As far as we know, we’re being prepared for a September start as usual,” he says. “Given the smaller classes, it may well be possible to conduct teaching as normal – to an extent – but I guess we should await confirmation of this.”
Sam was seen most recently on the York stage in September 2019 as Pinocchio in York Stage Musicals’ Shrek The Musical and earlier last year as Rolf in York Stage Musicals’ The Sound Of Music, both at the Grand Opera House, where he also has worked front of house.
He had played Schlomo in the York Stage Experience summer school production of Fame at the same theatre in 2017.
At the LSE, he starred as Anthony in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street in 2019 and the multi role-playing Clown in The 39 Steps in 2018, as well as being the director and choreographer for Sister Act this year and Made In Dagenham in 2018.
“The 39 Steps was undoubtedly the most fun I have had on stage or in a rehearsal room,” says Sam. “Bringing so many different characters to life was not only the greatest joy but encouraged me to learn new accents and physical theatre skills that will stick with me.
“Playing Pinocchio last year was a highlight too. The entire Shrek company was oozing with talent and it was a privilege to perform with every one of them, but bringing to life such an iconic and fun character made the experience even more enjoyable.
“Working with Damien [Boston Spa director-choreographer Damien Poole] and the ever-professional York Stage team on this complex production was such a joy.”
York has had an “immeasurable” influence on Sam’s acting and musical skills. “The first show I watched was in York, my first venture on to a stage was in York, and my first classes were held here,” he says. “I was brought up here, and it is impossible to describe the extent to which the city has had an impact on where I am today and hope to be in the future.
“York is blessed to have so many fantastic amateur musical theatre companies, and I have personally been blessed to have performed in several of them.”
Sam has indeed spread his talent widely in the city. “York Stage Musicals gave me the opportunity to step on stage for the first time in Oliver back in 2009; York Light Opera Company provided me with my first named part as Friedrich in The Sound Of Music in 2012, and York Light Youth have given me countless opportunities to develop new skills,” he says.
“Performing as Marius in Les Miserables in 2014 and Ugly in Honk! in 2015 remain some of the most formative experiences in my passion for musical theatre. This is not to mention York Stage Experience and York Musical Theatre Company, with whom I had further opportunities to develop new skills and make more friends.”
Sam considers himself “fortunate to have grown up in a city that has so much to offer with regards to theatre, and for that, I will be forever grateful”, he says.
“Crucial to my interest and passion too is my school, Archbishop Holgate’s, who have the most engaging and passionate music teachers, who taught me so much and gave me so many opportunities to develop.”
Looking ahead, to beyond his MA, Sam says: “I would love to turn this training into a career on stage. I understand and appreciate the difficulty in making this step in a competitive environment, probably exacerbated by current events, but that is where I want to be, and I wouldn’t be doing this if I wasn’t going to give everything to make it happen.”
Such determination, such talent too, deserves to be rewarded.