She dreamed a dream – and it came true, as Paige Brooker won this year’s Instant Star competition.
The 16-year-old from Purbrook emerged as the winner from a strong field of 12 entrants in The News’ annual contest to find the best unsung talent from our region.
The three judges – theatre director and music promoter Steve Pitt, Fleetingwood Mac frontwoman and sound engineer Bethany Raine and The News’ entertainment editor Chris Broom – were left with a tough task in picking a winner thanks to the high standard of entrants at The Wedgewood Rooms in Southsea.
But dressed in period costume, Paige delivered a stunning rendition of I Dreamed A Dream from Les Miserables that lifted her above the competition.
Paige, who has recently started studying musical theatre at Chichester College, says: ‘It’s so exciting – when we were watching the others you could see that they were really good, so I wasn’t expecting to win.’
The former Purbrook Park pupil decided to enter after she saw it promoted by Jo Bennington, the co-ordinator of the Kings Youth Theatre, where Paige is a member.
‘I’ve been doing Kings Youth Theatre for two years now. I knew a few people who were already going there, and they recommended it to me, so I thought I’d give it a try, and I’ve loved it ever since,’ she says. ‘When I saw about Instant Star, I thought “why not give it a go?”’
Paige has already proved herself an accomplished performer, playing Dorothy in the KYT production of The Wizard of Oz, and Tinkerbell in its Peter Pan.
But she has yet to play the part of Fantine, who sings I Dreamed a Dream in Les Mis.
‘I think it would be interesting to do, but I love playing any part in a musical,’ she says. ‘I picked this song for the competition because it’s one of the songs I’m doing for my next singing exam – I’m going to be taking my grade eight.’
Paige’s performance drew praise for the way she inhabited the song and drew out the emotion.
‘It takes me a few weeks of practice to get the emotion of a song like that across, but once I know how, I can do it again,’ she explains.
Judge Steve Pitt adds: ‘Paige gave a flawless performance of a big song. I’ve seen others attempt this at various stage schools and I’ve had to tell some of them to back off from it – it’s a very difficult song to do well. Paige delivered it really well.’
The judges also gave special praise to Jaida-Lou Carter, the nine-year-old who opened proceedings with her version of Alicia Key’s This Girl Is On Fire.
‘We were impressed by Jaida-Lou – if she keeps practising and comes back next year, she’s definitely got potential,’ says Steve.
As part of her prize, Paige will sing at The Kings Theatre in Southsea during The News’ We Can Do It and WOW247 Awards nights, as well as The Children in Need gala night and at the switching-on of the city centre Christmas lights in Commercial Road.