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Playing the part of Rizzo in Grease on the Stockton Riverside College stage last summer proved a sign of big things to come for musical theatre student Lilly.

Little could she have known that 12 months later she would be off to Miami with a part in the ensemble of Royal Caribbean cruise’s larger-than-life take on the Broadway show.

All the more impressive is that, at just 18, Lilly will also be first cover for the role of Marty and second cover for Rizzo.

“I’m still shocked and can’t quite believe it is happening,” she said. “I initially went along to the open audition in London for the experience.”

After queuing for more than three hours she finally made it into the mix, but with fierce competition Lilly had to stand out among five groups, each made up of 80 all-singing-and-dancing performers.

She explained: “Only five people out of my group were asked to stay back for the afternoon, where we had to learn and perform a routine from the show.”

When she was invited to the second day of auditions, held at the famous Pineapple Dance Studios, suddenly the impossible started to feel more real.

“It was an incredible experience, and I loved every minute,” said Lilly who, as a member of the Val Armstrong Performing Arts school in Hartlepool, has been performing for as long as she can remember.

No stranger to the professional stage, she toured in Billy Elliot the Musical, playing the part of Debbie, at 10.

Now studying musical theatre at Stockton Riverside College, word came that she had got the job during rehearsals for their summer production of the smash hit musical, We Will Rock You, taking to the stage later this month.

Surrounded by classmates, many of which have secured places at the country’s leading theatre schools and universities, the show will, no doubt, see Lilly complete her college studies in style, jetting off to Miami just days after their final performance.

While it’s a big move, her family are familiar with the demands of performing on the high seas as she follows in her sister Hollie’s footsteps who has also just completed a run on board a cruise liner, also coincidentally performing in Grease.

For Lilly the adventure has just begun. Training starts in Miami in June, before setting sail in August, working through to April 2025, taking in The Bahamas, Mexico and Jamaica. After that, she said: “Who knows, it’s the unknown.  Hopefully another contract.”

Stockton Riverside College’s creative director Sara Durkin said: “It is very rare to find a student on a par with professionals at 16/17. When Lilly said she was auditioning for Grease, I had an inkling she might get it.  We are so proud and excited for her and indeed all those heading off on exciting new adventures.”

With students going off to the likes of Arts Ed, Laine, Bird College, Urdang, Mountview and Emile Dale, Addict Dance Academy, Wilkes, Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts and of course Lilly securing work with Royal Caribbean, Sara added: “This is our most successful year of progression to date.”

Plus, the singing talent in this particular group opened up the chance to bring We Will Rock You to the college’s Margaret Armstrong stage.

“The show is very vocally demanding on performers, with lots of full-on show and dance numbers,” said Sara. “This group has the standard of voices needed to tackle that and I know the audiences are going to love it.”

We Will Rock You takes to the Maragret Armstong stage at Stockton Riverside College from Monday May 20 to Saturday May 25.  Tickets are still available, adults £16 and concessions £15. Email: Sara.Durkin@stockton.ac.uk

Lilly Cadwallender We Will Rock You Lilly Cadwallender As Rizzo In Grease The Musical
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