In July 2022 Year 9 student Shanyia Tsoto made her West End debut as Young Tina in The Drifters Girl, directed by Jonathan Church, acting alongside famous soul singer Beverley Knight MBE.
The Drifters Girl is a jukebox musical which premiered at the Theatre Royal, Newcastle on 09 October 2021. It is based on the story of the American vocal group The Drifters, who rose to fame in the 1960s with hits such as Under the Boardwalk and Save the Last Dance for Me, and their manager, Faye Treadwell (Knight). Shanyia played Faye’s daughter who acts as a narrator of her mother’s life story.
Shanyia auditioned for the production in November 2021 online via Zoom. This was followed by two recalls in December, for which she travelled to London. Later that month on her way home from school, she was informed that she had been successful, and rehearsals began in January 2022 ahead of her first performance on 24 February.
At just 12 years old, talented Shanyia performed for six months at the Garrick Theatre, co-owned by Nica Burns and Max Weitzenhoffer of Nimax Theatres. Shanyia said of this unique experience: “It was great, I loved. It definitely taught me to be more organised as I still had to stay on top of schoolwork and get ready for tests. I would study in my dressing room between performances. I learnt a lot of life skills.” Her run ended in July before she returned to school in September.
Performance arts has always been a great passion of Shanyia’s. Aged four she began her stage training with Stagecoach Performing Arts School in Milton Keynes, being selected to dance in troupes around England theatres. In 2019, she performed as young Eponine in Les Misérables at Milton Keynes Theatre, before being selected to train as Nala for the Lion King cub academy and being cast in a production of 101 Dalmatians. Unfortunately, neither of these projects could progress due to COVID-19.
However, from January to August 2021, Shanyia acted in the new Matilda film which will hit UK cinemas in November 2022. She enjoyed this experience and wishes to go on to do more television and film work in the future.
Shanyia’s mother added: “Shanyia had the most amazing experience on The Drifters Girl and learnt a lot from all of the cast and crew she worked with. She also showed great courage, work ethic and resilience with her schoolwork and exams. We are super proud of her.”