The classrooms and corridors that articulate the 900 m2 of SOM Academy, in the city of Madrid, they are a kind of ecosystem, very alive, where students (juniors and those of the four-year professional degree) coexist, cast protagonists of musicals that are preparing for the premiere (before they were the interpreters of Grease and, for six months, they are those of Matilda, who will see the light in 2022) and professionals of the song, dance and dance who seek to perfect or train their techniques. Along with them, a teaching team of active professionals, who are also teachers. And not inverted.
And in the artistic direction of the school, David Serrano. We met him through the cinema (his are the scripts for “The other side of the bed” and “Football days”, the latter also directed it) and, for a good handful of years, he has put his full signature (adaptation and direction) to the most prestigious musicals premiered in our country by SOM Produce, the company behind the first comprehensive musical school in Spain.
“SOM Academy It contributes something very different from the rest of the schools: behind it is the most important musical theater production company in Spain. It not only produces, but also programs, because it runs four theaters in Madrid (Rialto, Nuevo Alcalá, Calderón and Nuevo Apolo). What we considered, at the time, was that we were going to give training that was very focused on professional prospects, on what the market demands and needs. And that the teachers who gave classes would be active professionals, not professionals who teach, but professionals who also teach. In this way, the students would have a very direct relationship with the market. The idea was not only to train actors, but also professionals ”, David Serrano details.
The need that marked the beginning
The training space created by SOM Produce was born just a year ago, but its germ is found in May 2015, when the Billy Elliot School started. “We realized that, since the protagonist had to dance classical and tap, sing, interpret, a lot of different things, there were no children who handled all those disciplines. The only way was to create this school to train them. The process was not only very nice and special for all of us who were involved, but we also saw that we could continue to train other children for musical futures and that the working method that we had used could also be used in another school of musical theater for future projects. Based on that idea, they began to talk about setting up this SOM Academy with some of the professionals who had been at the Billy Elliot School ”, recalls the director.
Until today, when the project has been materialized. And not in any way. The SOM Academy students receive classes from Claudio Tolcachir (in the interpretation department), Fernando Lázaro and Iker Karrera (in the dance department) and Verónica Ronda (in the singing department). And there is much more: they attend to see the rehearsals of the musicals in preparation; they participate, symbolically, in the castings to test the experience first-hand; and they hold meetings with members of the technical and artistic team of the different musicals in operation, who contribute their professional vision.
A shared space
Sharing space with the students, the small actors from 8 to 10 years old that make up the cast of the musical Matilda come to school three days a week to train in all the disciplines necessary to be able to defend the musical, with the highest level and quality, the day of its premiere in 2022. These processes usually last a year and a half. So it was with Grease, el musical most recently released by SOM Produce, and earlier with Billy Elliot.
“When it is necessary, as it happened with the boys and girls of Grease or now with Matilda, where they are very young children, we train them within the school. But, apart, SOM Academy has its own operation and its four-year Degree in Musical Theater, which will also be a university degree. In this way, it functions as a school of interpretation and, at the same time, as a school that serves our musicals. We also offer an Undergraduate course in Musical Theater (in preparation for access to the degree) and workshops on specific subjects: tap, singing, choir … Now, in addition, we are beginning to organize one-month courses for professionals , like the one that the actor Roberto Álamo is going to give on how to relax in the interpretation ”, announces David Serrano.
To all this more ‘adult’ teaching offer is added the SOM Junior Academy, the area of the school dedicated to young people from 6 to 17 years old for their training in singing, interpretation and dance, and in the integration of these subjects. “Whether they dedicate themselves to musical theater in the future or not, that children learn to use words, their bodies, to move, to have security in front of the public is a marvel that will serve them the rest of their lives. Already in this course we established the subject of musical theater, in addition to singing, acting and dancing ”.
SOM Academy wants to function as the great pool of musical performers that Spain needs, but also of professionals capable of performing in any medium: theater (musical or text), television or cinema. And it is succeeding. About half of the 35 boys and girls who make up the cast of Grease were already in Billy Elliot, so SOM Produce has been working with them since they were 11 or 12 years old; now they are between 17 and 19. And there are many who are starring in series and movies. This is the case of Pau Gimeno in the Paraíso series (Movistar +) or Álvaro de Juana in titles such as Amar es para siempre (Antena 3) or HIT (La 1 de TVE).
“There is a historical problem in the interpretive part of the musical in Spain. Just as in text theater there has been a clear evolution in the last 30 or 40 years –now we are working with much more truth–, in musical theater that revolution has not occurred. From SOM, for us it is essential that musical theater is done for real, at an interpretive level; that the actors do not have tones, that they speak in a normal way, that they get really excited, that they do not pantomime … For this reason, the interpretation part in the grade is carried out by Claudio Tolcachir, because we want our students to also leave prepared to work as they are ask on television, film or theater. That they can do it in any of the branches of interpretation. And we are showing that we are doing a correct job, because our boys and girls are making the leap to audiovisuals quite easily ”, celebrates the director.
The protagonists (and ‘former students’) of the SOM Produce musicals, and the future performers, all-rounder, today SOM Academy students have a bright future. “There is more and more industry and better productions are being made in Spain. Our sets and casts are getting brighter and brighter. And this new generation of boys and girls – that of Grease, which was previously Billy Elliot’s – is already at the level of the companies that we can see in New York or London, without any doubt ”, clarifies David Serrano.
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How the musical Billy Elliot originated the first comprehensive school of musicals in Spain: SOM Academy