Sunday, 18 December 2016

Highlights of 2016

As the end of the year rapidly approaches and this blog eventually wraps up with the publishing of my Top Ten Lists on Boxing Day, I thought I’d reflect on some highlights from 2016.

Who would have thunk it, me, on the main stage at the Heath Ledger Theatre, not once but twice! First, it was to present certificates at the 41st Annual Robert Finley Awards in January. Then at the 42nd Robert Finley Awards last night to announce the recipient of the Yvonne Hough-Neilson Award (that went to playwright Noel O’Neill) and nine certificates. It was an honour to be an ITA adjudicator for the last two years and both Awards nights were a real pleasure to attend and be a part of.

February saw the first of three trips over east for theatrical purposes. It was a delight to watch Broadway star Sutton Foster headline the Defying Gravity concert in Sydney and speculate on the pronunciation of Aaron Tveit’s surname. Aussie David Harris and Joanna Ampil also made impressions as the work of Stephen Schwartz was given a triumphant work out.

Now, I am a HUGE Prince fan but I had never seen him perform live. Therefore the Prince concert in February was an absolute highlight. Thankfully I had a ticket bought for me while I was on a plane (thank you, Sarah!) and we had excellent seats. Prince was the consummate performer and had the Perth Arena crowd in the palm of his hand. A little less than two months later he was dead in one of the tragedies of the year.

I was flattered to be asked to be the adjudicator for Blak Yak’s 24 Hour Script Project in April. Held at Rigby’s in the city on a stormy old night it turned out to be an entertaining evening with many excellent performances and well written plays given the time constraint.

One of the more ambitious undertakings of the year came from the theatre hothouse that is Murdoch University. Murdoch Theatre Company, From The Hip Productions, and Second Chance Theatre combined with Nexus Theatre to produce The Gothics Trilogy in July. Three plays based on the classic horror characters Dracula, The Mummy, and Frankenstein’s Monster, performed sequentially in only a three week window. Driven by John King, Tim Brain, and Scott McArdle it was a bold endeavour rarely seen in independent theatre.

I went on my third annual Melbourne musical theatre junket in July. One of the unexpected outcomes was the discovery of Amy Lehpamer who was wonderful as Maria in The Sound of Music. But the real highlight was seeing recent WAAPA graduates in that show (Du Toit Bredenkamp, Sophie Cheeseman, and William Groucutt, all 2014 graduates) and especially the five 2015 graduates – Matilda Moran, Matthew Hyde, Rosabelle Elliott, Alex Thompson, and Joel Granger - in the fabulous Titanic the Musical at Chapel Off Chapel. It is such a thrill to see graduates doing so well in the early stages of their professional careers. It was also lovely to talk to Matilda, Matthew, Rosabelle, Alex, and Joel afterwards to be reminded not only are they all supremely talented but genuinely nice people as well.

Likewise during Sydney trip number two in August to see 2015 graduate Heather Manley (and 2014 grad Max Bimbi) in Aladdin at the Capitol Theatre. Heather was understudy as Princess Jasmine but I saw her playing one of the Attendants in the huge Capitol Theatre. It was great to catch up briefly and meet her proud parents after the show at the Stage Door who had travelled all the way from Guam. I understand Heather would later go on to play Jasmine several times in this spectacular production.  

Then there was the venture into community theatre Sydney style on the same trip. I caught the train out to Bankstown to see two friends who were starring in Chess the Musical. I had no idea what to expect both in terms of venue (a converted swimming centre I believe) and the quality of execution. I found it to be pretty much the same as any upper echelon community theatre production in WA and wouldn’t have been out of its depth at the Finley Awards. The night was enhanced by the revelation that the son of one of the managers at the company I work for has a fabulous singing voice.

2016 was another great year but after seeing 153 productions I must confess to a certain degree of exhaustion. This is after ‘resigning’ from reviewing in July to concentrate on a screenwriting project. I’m glad I 'slowed down'!

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