A young Hull woman has been given the opportunity to pursue her dream of securing a role in the West End after being awarded a grant from the Neil Hudgell Solicitors Trust.
Holly Lewis, 23, of east Hull, first developed a passion for musical theatre when she saw a cinema version of Phantom of the Opera aged just 13.
After gaining a degree in the art form, she independently completed exams with the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts (LAMDA) and the London College of Music (LCM), gaining distinctions in both.
Now, Holly has now been awarded a place at the American Musical Theatre Academy, which will allow her to study in London and New York, over the next year.
However, with her place at the Academy costing £10,500, Holly needed extra support to reach the total, and a £1,000 grant from the Neil Hudgell Solicitors Trust has helped take her a step closer to stardom.
Holly, a former David Lister School pupil, said: “I never had the courage to go for it when I was younger.When I was taken to see Phantom of the Opera in the West End in London for my 18th birthday, I just knew I had to do it.
“You can’t go into musical theatre without training though, and when I heard that the Trust had awarded me £1,000, my eyes lit up.
“It’s absolutely amazing and it has really helped me to get out there and do what I want. It made the money I had saved up to the right amount. I’m so grateful.”
Holly’s teachers in London are all involved in the West End, while her tutors in New York have connections with Broadway, ensuring the knowledge they pass on is based on personal experience in the muscal theatre world.
She will travel to New York in February or March next year and says she is enjoying every minute of her course, which includes singing, dancing, acting through song, bootcamps in exercise routines, and repertoire and vocal classes.
Holly, who has moved to Barking in east London for the year, will also attend lectures on how to secure an agent, whilst also being given the chance to perform in front of a professional panel of agents to hone her skills.
She said: “We’ve just started properly this week and I love the acting classes, so I’m really excited about that.I want to be able to do as much as possible and be as versatile as possible. But being in a musical on a West End stage would be a dream come true.
“I really love it and you get out what you put in. The people are really lovely and so supportive.”
After completing her musical theatre degree at Hull College, Holly took 10 weeks out to travel in Australia with a friend. On her return in May, she instantly secured a job at a sports shop, from which she saved every penny possible towards her course, and is now working in Harrods in London whilst at the Academy.
Holly said her friends and family, including parents Brian and Penny, are right behind her, wishing her every success.
She said: “My dad used to be in a local rock band and he told me to go and do what he never managed. My friends are really excited for me too and a few want to come and stay with me.
“I feel more positive now than I have felt for a very long time. It feels like the time is right now and I’m meant to be here. With the funding and the job at Harrods too, you can’t get better than that. It means so much. I’m really excited to be here.”
The Neil Hudgell Solicitors Trust aims to give back to local communities and invites groups to apply for grants of up to £2,500, with a total of £100,000 available over a 12-month period.
Holly was awarded a ‘discretionary award’, as individuals do not strictly meet the funding criteria, but are often supported as the Trust looks back young people with the ambition, drive and talent to succeed.
Jo Hudgell, chair of the Trust, said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for Holly and it’s a lot of money to find, so we were delighted to be able to help her with a donation of £1,000.
“Holly will be working really hard over the next year to ensure she makes the most of the whole course and experience, and we look forward to hearing how it goes. I’m sure she will be a great success.”