ARTLOOK #7 | December / January 2004/2005
Photo Andrew Hackwill, as Jesus, being confronted by lepers in a scene from the Canberra Philharmonic’s Society’s Jesus Christ Superstar
Music theatre flourishes in Canberra
2004 has been a very good year for Music Theatre in Canberra. During the year we have had the luxury of being able to choose between productions by local amateur musical societies of a range of musicals which have included Footloose, Hair, Annie, Guys and Dolls, High Society, Kismet, Utopia Limited, Fiddler On The Roof, Jesus Christ Superstar and Titanic: The Musical.
Not all these productions were world-beaters but at least two-Canberra Philharmonic's Society's Jesus Christ Superstar, and Supa Production's Titanic: The Musical-were excellent examples of the high standard that can be achieved by amateur musical societies when they have good direction and production values.
In a time of relentlessly rising production costs there has been some recent speculation as to whether there are perhaps too many amateur groups over-servicing the same audience. If there are, then obviously some of these groups will undoubtedly fail. That would be a pity.
The Canberra Philharmonic Society, The Queanbeyan Players, Phoenix Players and Supa Productions have all been around a long time, but even the newest kid on the block, G. String Productions, appears to have found its audience. In fact, one reason for their survival is that each of these groups has worked diligently over the years to develop their own loyal and appreciative audience.
Amateur musical and dramatic societies perform a valuable community service. For many it is their first, experience of the unique and peculiar excitement of getting out on the stage to perform. For some it is an experience they never want to repeat; for others it becomes a lifelong passion.
Many prefer to work backstage, exercising their talents for craft skills or organisation. For most, participation in an amateur musical is a way of seeking out new friends with whom to share an enthusiasm. For an exceptionally talented few, experience in amateur musical theatre is the springboard into a career as a theatre practitioner. At the very least their experience in amateur theatre insures that they become a more informed member of the audience.
For audience members, amateur musical societies often provide the only opportunity they will get to experience some musicals that, for a variety of reasons, never receive professional productions in this country; or they reaffirm memories of a previous cherished performance. Also, there is always the possibility of spotting one of those exceptional talents who have sheer enjoyment of sharing their pleasure in performing.
Obviously confidence remains high among the local amateur musical societies, because another feast of music theatre has been announced for Canberra in 2005. The first will be Seussical the Musical by the Phoenix Players from 14–30 January. Other musicals announced by various companies for 2005 include: The Pajama Game, Forbidden Planet, La Cage Aux Folles, Hello Dolly, Cabaret, and The Roar of the Greasepaint, The Smell of the Crowd.
CAT Awards reach 10th Anniversary
One of the biggest and most glamorous theatrical events in Canberra each year, and certainly one of the reasons for the continued popularity of amateur theatre in the region, is the annual Canberra Area Theatre (CAT) Awards presentations, which this year will take place at the Canberra Theatre Centre on 18 December.
Sustained by the unflagging enthusiasm of Coralie Wood, the CAT Awards were instituted in 1994 to recognise achievements of amateur theatre companies in Canberra and its regions.
The first presentations were at the Australian National University Arts Centre in 1994, but they quickly outgrew that venue and moved to The Playhouse. As their reputation grew, even The Playhouse became too small, and now the presentations take place in the Canberra Theatre in an extravaganza not unlike the American Tony Awards, and which feature excerpts from many of the nominated productions from around the region.
The awards are presented by high profile celebrities including Toni Lamond, Jeanne Little and Garry Sweet. Highly prized by the recipients, these awards have done much
to highlight the quality and importance, as well as raise the profile, of amateur theatre in the region.
Nunsense at Teatro Vivaldi's
Teatro Vivaldi's will move into the realm of Dinner Theatre this month when they combine with G.String Productions to present the Dan Goggin musical Nunsense from 8–19 December. This bright little musical tells of the efforts of a group of nuns who put on a fund-raising concert, and should sit very comfortably in this delightful venue.
Bill Stephens hosts the Cabaret Headliners series for the National Press Club and is a member of the Adelaide Cabaret Festival Advisory Committee.