Wednesday, 5 November 2014

WAAPA Showcase - Perth (3 November 2014)

At the end of the musical theatre section of Monday night’s Showcase the screen at the rear of the stage showed all the performers in a line, looking fabulous and in high spirits. As the camera pans across them it stops abruptly and 2014’s graduating class all look over their shoulder… at a Centrelink sign. It received a big laugh from the audience but there’s a sobering message underneath the humour. Things are about to get real and the stakes are high. On Saturday 18 actors and 20 MT performers will leave for the eastern states and two Showcase performances, one in Melbourne, one in Sydney. Agents and professional careers await. 

On the evidence of this performance the prospects are very good that all of them will find representation and be gracing our screens, both small and large, and stages throughout the world for years to come.

This gives me a moment of pause as I can’t possibly do justice to an evening that featured 21 pieces for the actors with another 23 musical theatre acts after intermission. However, I have decided to give general impressions and then list some of my personal highlights. Others will be making far more significant determinations in the coming days so my apologies in advance for the omissions. Let me say this though, it has been an absolute pleasure watching both classes throughout the year and this special Showcase performance for the Friends of the Academy was a fitting send off. I look forward to seeing your work in the coming years.

Okay, enough first act exposition! The evening was held at the Geoff Gibbs Theatre and I was fortunate to have a seat in the front row. The acting class was up first and their program was a mix of showreel scenes played on the big screen and live performances. The other aspect for both classes was individually filmed introductions for each actor/performer that were quirky and amusing to give a real sense of personality.    

The showreel scenes were directed by Andrew Lewis himself and looked terrific. My favourite was a beautifully nuanced piece between Holly Dyroff and Aleks Mikic who conveyed the subtext between their housemate characters superbly. Felicity McKay and Jane Watt had a fun scene that went in an unexpected direction involving a bathtub and, well, let’s just say, unusual interruptions. Joel Horwood and Harriet Davies were in a lovely ‘walk and talk’ scene that was understated and quite philosophical. What struck me through all the filmed scenes was the natural screen presence the actors had with Adam Sollis, Alexis Lane, Liam Maguire, Alex Malone and Emma Diaz also impressing.

Of the live pieces, Jane Watt gave a memorable performance as an over-eager participant in a fox hunt (Decadence); Holly Dyroff started proceedings with a bang in a scene from Venus in Furs with Jonny Hawkins; while Henry Hammersla and Felicity McKay attacked an excerpt from Enron in great style. There were a couple of 'classics’ thrown in with Stephanie Tsindos and Emma Diaz giving a new take on The Odd Couple while Joel Horwood and Alex Malone had fun with some Woody Allen style neuroses from Annie Hall. Aleks Mikic gave a really physical turn with a piece called Road. The riskiest act was written and performed by Adam Sollis and Jonny Hawkins who had a little fun with the whole showcase concept in a performance piece called We Are Acting that was amusing and clever.

Then it was all over. Friends and family were waiting in the foyer and there was a sense of relief and excitement. I congratulated those unencumbered by well-wishers and had a brief chat with Jonny who is always generous with his time.

Next up was the musical theatre class and there was a real Chicago vibe going on from Suzie Melloy featuring in Roxie to Jessica Voivenel’s Can’t Do It Alone and ensemble work to Overture/All That Jazz, Cell Block Tango and Hot Honey Rag. That suited me just fine! Sondheim also had a work out with Sophie Cheeseman giving a wonderfully moving rendition of Not A Day Goes By and Ben Adams reprising his star turn in Merrily We Roll Along with Franklin Shepard Inc. Daniel Berini was very strong with Finishing the Hat and Ashleigh Rubenach charming as she sang On The Steps of The Palace from Into the Woods.

Other highlights included William Groucutt’s crowd pleasing Boyband which is such a well-executed showcase of his talents. Similarly, Max Bimbi’s The Plane (is Going Down) always gets a laugh but is a demanding piece that he does very well. Rounding out the quirky quotient was Nick Eynaud’s To Excess which features quite disturbing lyrics if you stop to think about it but is presented with such goofy charm that we laugh anyway.

Perhaps my favourite piece was Lyndon Watts’ Le Jazz Hot, a stirring exhibition of his singing and dancing skills. It was very slick and yes, very hot. Du Toit Bredenkamp gave a stirring rendition of The Streets of Dublin then there was Rebecca Hetherington’s powerful No One Will Bruise where she didn’t miss a beat with the only blemish on the night – the woman next to me whose mobile starting ringing - come on people, it’s not that fucking difficult, turn the damn thing off or put it on silent! I very much liked Shannen Alyce’s With You and Sophie Stokes ended the evening with a terrific performance of On My Way. I should also mention the excellent work on piano by Kohan van Sambeeck while Groucutt and Bredenkamp provided occasional musical assistance.

Afterwards I had conversations with Suzie, Ashleigh, Sophie, Daniel, Nick, and Rebecca and again what strikes me is how generous they are with their time and how genuinely lovely they are. Interestingly, many expressed how much more nervous they were performing in front of their peers that afternoon. For many this is also their last week in Perth so it is a massive time of change and future prospects.

In all, an excellent night with some two hours of entertainment that is the culmination of three years of hard work, talent, and dedication that I can only but admire.

To the acting class of Julio Cesar, Harriet Davies, Emma Diaz, Holly Dyroff, Alexander Frank, Henry Hammersla, Jonny Hawkins, Joel Horwood, Alexis Lane, Liam Maguire, Alex Malone, Kristy Marillier, Felicity McKay, Aleks Mikic, Harry Richardson, Adam Sollis, Stephanie Tsindos, and Jane Watt; and the musical theatre class of Ben Adams, Shannen Alyce, Daniel Berini, Max Bimbi, Du Toit Bredenkamp, Eloise Cassidy, Sophie Cheeseman, Nick Eynaud, William Groucutt, Rebecca Hetherington, Miranda Macpherson, Stephen Madsen, Suzie Melloy, Ashleigh Rubenach, Sophie Stokes, Jack Van Staveren, Jessica Voivenel, Lyndon Watts, Patrick Whitbread, and Chloe Wilson I wish you all the best for the eastern states’ Showcases and your future careers!

Shows reviewed from this year:

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