This teenager flies in from Portugal every week for drama lesson with West End star

An aspiring actress is so determined to make it on the West End stage that she flies from Portugal to London every week for a three-hour drama lesson — a round trip of 2,250 miles.

Maria Santos, 16, travels from her home on the Algarve to attend a class at the MTM School in Shaftesbury Avenue run by West End star Michael Xavier.

Her weekend routine starts on Saturday morning with a dance class near her home. She catches an afternoon flight to Stansted and arrives at a hostel in London at 9pm. The next morning she goes to her lesson before catching a return flight and arriving home at about 1am. Since the start of the year she has spent about £2,400 on her flights and accommodation.

Her ambition is to win a place on the musical theatre course at the Royal Academy of Music and become a West End star. She said: “There is no opportunity for me to train in this way in Portugal and I want to study musical theatre full-time in London once I have left my college in Portugal, because it is my dream to be a performer in the West End.

“I know that I need the right training to pass the audition to study in London when I am older, and I know that MTM and Michael Xavier will give me this training and prepare me for the auditions. My singing teacher in Portugal told me about them and encouraged me to audition and it has been an amazing experience and I know I have made the right decision, even though it is a very long way to travel.”

Michael Xavier poses backstage with Glenn Close at a performance of Sunset Boulevard (Dave Benett)
Michael Xavier poses backstage with Glenn Close at a performance of Sunset Boulevard (Dave Benett)

The Shaftesbury Avenue school works with performers aged 10 to 25 and employs a string of West End regulars as guest teachers.Xavier, who is director and principal, starred opposite Glenn Close in the award-winning West End revival of Sunset Boulevard last year.

He said the school was so impressed with Maria that they have given her a scholarship so she can continue her studies. He added: “One of the toughest and most competitive industries requires heap loads of dedication, commitment and passion.

“Maria has these qualities in abundance and is a fine example of what it takes to make it to the top in musical theatre. One of the best things about Maria, aside from her incredible talent, is her unending positivity. She comes to class every Sunday beaming with enthusiasm and excitement even though she’s made that epic journey all the way from Portugal. She never complains or makes excuses for being tired and always knows the material we’ve set as homework. She really is a shining example not only to our students at Musical Theatre Masterclass but to all performers across the industry.”

MTM is holding an audition day on Saturday. Apply at

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