The Actor's Experience with Annie Laurenson

by Annie Laurenson

I very nearly missed the auditions for Pillow Talk, having seen them but for some reason decided I didn't fit the criteria. It was only as I was seeing Beaumaris’ brilliant performance of Company that Debbie Keyt asked if I would come to a second audition. I'm so glad she mentioned it; I'm so glad I went to Company, (for reasons other than Pillow Talk,) because I have enjoyed this production enormously, and to think – I nearly missed that experience!

It may seem strange to say I'm enjoying a production that is so fraught with emotions but it's Andy’s script that resonates so much with me personally, and as an actress, that gives so much to pleasure.

Rod Hulme, playing my husband, is an absolute joy to work with! If suddenly I feel moved to do something I haven't done in any other rehearsal, he deals with it brilliantly and responds as Harry would. He is an incredibly generous performer. The same can be said of Siobhan who is just hilarious as the egotistical daughter, Cassie and whose journey to empathic young woman is a joy to watch. Stephen playing the son from Henri's first marriage, is great to work with, but I know he can make me giggle, and that could be at a very inappropriate time! The only sadness I have in this play is that I don't get any direct contact with Alex and Caity, both of whom I know from previous productions and both of whom are lovely performers. It's sad that I don't get any stage time with them. But it would also be a bit weird since Caity is playing me as a young woman, which brings up all those old “messing with your own timeline issues” that so beset your average time traveller!

Its been one of the easiest rehearsal times I’ve ever had; the lines just seemed to flow and it's truly lovely to be back at Beaumaris. Andy has mentioned elsewhere that he is so grateful that Beaumaris took the risk to produce an unknown play. I think the results speak for themselves, but it must be said, it's not an easy play to watch, that's for sure. It's hard to watch that amount of emotion on a stage.

Andy’s script embraces many viewpoints and if it prompts more people to discuss with their loved ones their choices about their life and their death, it's performed a great social function. If it simply moves audiences, well, that's a pretty special result too.

Company Review

Reviewed by David Collins - May 31, 2019
Theatrecraft published by The Victorian Drama League

Company tells the story of Robert, still single but starting to question is propensity to still mingle. His friends see, to have all taken steps to settle down, but not him. A girlfriend here (Marta), a girlfriend there (Kathy), a stewardess (April0 every other where… slowly Robert finds himself in a kind of crisis, having to decide between embracing change or avoiding it.

Fred Pezzimenti’s set design is a nice mix of the practical and stylistic. Items of future wheel around onstage, surrounded by projection and a stencilled city skyline. With a story spread across multiple locations and little time allowed for transition, the cast move their set pieces as needed from one scene . to the next at a fine pace. The only niggling distraction is a scuffed, black stage floor that looked in need of a coat of paint or at least a brush. To be sure, multiple locations means keeping things fluid and flexible, with dressing at a minimum, but drawn floorboards may have lifted the look of things from good to great.

The band, conducted by musical director Malcom Huddle, was terrific. Unlike previous shows such as Chicago, there is no room for musicians on stage, so here they have the unenviable task of playing from backstage. Yet, despite distance and acoustics, they get the sound levels just right. There wasn’t a moment when any of the performers where drowned out or threatened to be over-powered.

Those performers were fairly brilliant all-round, with the women - Amelia Hunter (Amy), Carolyn Waddell (Joanne), Amy Larsen (Marta), Candice Sweetman (Sarah), Hayley Noy (Kathy), Katrina Pezzimenti (Jenny), Emily McKenzie (April) , and Lauren McCormack (Susan) - mostly stealing the show. Amy’s wedding histrionics were hilariously played by Amelia, while Carolyn’s small scene between Joanne and Robert near the end as she triggers his epiphany was beautifully done. Candice’s acting and singing were also a highlight, all the more so when learning afterwards she was performing with a fractured leg! It makes her early scenes - as Sarah demonstrates her karate prowess on her husband, Harry - impressive as well as funny.

The men - Nic Russ (Paul), Anthony Bingham (David), Blair Salmon (Peter), Brett O’Meara (Larry), and Dan Bellis (Harry) - provided able backup throughout, led from the front by an excellent performance by Nicholas King as Robert. The play opens on one of Robert’s birthdays and ends a year later. In this in-between time, Robert has an almost dream-like meander through his friends’ lives and Nicholas navigated this increasingly haphazard emotional rollercoaster well.

With performers like Ramin Karimloo known for their renditions of the final number, “Being Alive”, you’d forgive anyone for feeling a little daunted as the show approaches its last scene. But Nicholas was fearless on the edge of the stage, tackling the closing song with heart and gusto.

Director Colin Armstrong and his cast and crew have ensured Company is another splendid addition to Beaumaris Theatre Company’s pedigree of musicals. You hope they don’t run out them any time soon.

The Actor's Experience

by Alex Ashcroft

Working on Pillow Talk’s been a really interesting experience for me – growing up, most of the plays I worked on were by Shakespeare, or someone very much like him. As time went on, I worked on more and more contemporary shows, but never one where the writer was sat in the room, seeing my interpretation of their work.

It’s been fascinating being in rehearsals with Andy, as it’s highlighted just how much interpretation goes on from the moment the playwright downs tools and the moment the actor speaks the words from the page. Some things I spotted and highlighted were very different to how he’d imagined them spoken when he wrote them, to his delight, and some things he’d put in I completely missed until he pointed them out. Being able to workshop ideas like this with both writer and director in the same person has been a completely new, unique experience for me, and I’ve learned a lot from working on this show!

As for the cast, I honestly can’t speak higher of them – each and every one of them has slipped into the role as though it was made for them.

Caity, who’s been my partner in every scene throughout the course of this show, perfectly captures the essence of Henri – what she wants, she gets, and all with a mischievous sense of humour that Caity has spot on! It’s been great to bounce ideas back and forth with her, and to be in a show where we can get away with snacks onstage!

Rod and Annie are incredibly well paired, and both embody the spirits of their characters with ease. Rod’s been a great source of inspiration throughout this show, with me working to reasonably seem like a younger version of him. Annie… Annie is hilarious, as always, and I’m going to have to work hard not to laugh too loudly backstage!

There could absolutely be no better Cassie than Siobhan – when she walks onstage, she becomes the epitome of a self-centred, technology-addicted young person that exasperates and endears in one breath.

And finally it’s been a pleasure to work with Steve again, who as in Echoes has some meaty lines to deliver, which he does with his usual gravitas and grace. Once again he finds himself playing a politician – he seems to be rather good at it!

While a show like this could be light on the technical side of things, the direction Andy has spearheaded has been anything but. Without our crack team of set builders, stage management, lighting and sound the show would definitely be the less, and between them they do a fine job of… Well, come and see the show to find out what they get up to!

Pillow Talk has been an incredible show to work on, with a great script, laughs and tears, and an experienced and competent team. I hope you come and see the show for yourself to find out just how true this is!

Pillow Talk will run at Beaumaris Theatre from 16-31 August

Meet the cast of Pillow Talk

Introducing the extraordinary actors featuring in Andy Payne’s Pillow Talk, opening 16 August.

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Annie Laurenson- Henri

We last saw Annie on the Beaumaris stage at the end of 2017, when she managed to cover almost all the British Isles in the one production - Death by Fatal Murder .

Some of Annie's favourite recent roles include: Fabia Tomb in Tiptoe Through the Tombstones; Edith in Allo! ‘Allo! with Frankston Theatre Group; Maria Merelli, a mad Italian Lend Me A Tenor and Mitzi, a mad German in An Absolute Turkey with Waverley. See the pattern? She recently finished a one-act play with Dionysus’ Arête: Epsilon – Moving On, a homegrown one-act play about loss, grief and moving on. Many decades ago Annie was in Blithe Spirit, The Maids, On the Razzle, Breaker Morant and Catholic School Girls among many others, here on the Beaumaris Theatre stage.

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Rod Hulme- Harry

Rod was first active in community theatre in the late 80’s early 90’s working with companies across Melbourne such as Malvern, 1812, Brighton and Williamstown Theatre.

He then took a short break to concentrate on work and family. This ‘short’ break lasted over 20 years until 2017 when Rod rejoined the community theatre scene for Australia Day at Mordialloc Theatre Company. Since then Rod has made up for the lost time and has done shows at Malvern Theatre Company in Our Town, Mordialloc Theatre Company in Seasons Greetings and Pack of Lies and Peridot Theatre Company in Brilliant Lies.

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Caity Leong – Young Henri

Caity’s acting career began during the early years of high school at the age of 12 in shows such as OKLAHOMA! and The Wedding Singer and performing as Catherine in Pippin.

Following high school, Caity was honoured to perform in the roles of Cherry in Così with Frankston Theatre Group and Christmas Eve in Avenue Q with Mornington Players.

In between theatre commitments, Caity works as a barista and singing coach at Coach Music Academy.

Pillow Talk marks Caity’s first production with Beaumaris Theatre.

 
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Alex Ashcroft- Young Harry

Alex is a Beaumaris Theatre regular who earned his stripes treading the boards of his native England. Since arriving in Melbourne he’s appeared in several Beaumaris shows including playing Gendarme in Une Belle Farce, Constable Atkins in Death by Fatal Murder and James/Peter in Echoes, as well as appearing as Bob in Mordialloc Theatre Company’s All Things Considered.

He takes an active and enthusiastic interest in all parts of the theatre world, being a frequent face at set-builds, backstage and on front-of-house.

When not on stage, you can usually find him either working as a multifaceted admin at a children’s not-for-profit, buried in a book, raving about Shakespeare or quoting Terry Pratchett at you.

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Siobhan Barnes- Cassandra

Pillow Talk marks Siobhan's first show with Beaumaris Theatre since being in Bugsy Malone back in 2003.

Siobhan has been performing her whole life, whether it is on stage or the sporting field and had a big involvement in musical theatre when she was younger playing the roles of Genie in Aladdin, Nancy in The Boyfriend and returned to the stage last year as Babette in Beauty and the Beast.

When Siobhan isn’t performing, she is working as a Talent Agent and Sports Coach.

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Stephen White- Justin

Stephen has been involved in theatre for over 30 years, both in Australia and his native UK. His first outing for Beaumaris Theatre was in Set Build in 2013. Since then, he has appeared in Beaumaris’s Une Belle Farce and Fawlty Towers, Flowers for Algernon, and Echoes . In between “going out front”, Stephen has assisted backstage for The Thirty-Nine Steps, The Little Mermaid JR, A Chorus Line, and most recently as Stage Manager for Company. He also helped write 2017’s Cinderella: The Pantomime.

Back in the UK, credits included playing Bill Sikes in Oliver!, Caiaphas in Jesus Christ Superstar, painting himself gold to play the Genie in Aladdin, and appearing as Petruchio in The Taming of the Shrew, which he also directed.

A Fiery Response - Occ. Health and Safety Update

by Lynda French

As you know at Beaumaris Theatre we love a bit of drama and fun, so mid-June this year we turned our Set Build into a bit of a theatre adventure for our committee. Our objective was to run through a fire drill and practice our emergency evacuation policy.

Post-fire drill lunch

Post-fire drill lunch

We had a 100% attendance by our Committee Members and also our OH&S Subcommittee Members.  Fred Pezzimenti was our chief warden and executed the role with much aplomb. The drill ran like clockwork and all involved played their parts well.  The theatre was exited swiftly and emergency services called. Unfortunately, there may have been a couple of people left behind, but we managed to save them, so a good result overall.  

All in all a great exercise which gave all involved insight into the responsibilities of the fire warden and the many influencing factors that can occur when an emergency situation arises.  Needless to say, our patrons can be assured they are in safe hands when attending events at Beaumaris Theatre Inc. We celebrated our success with a gourmet luncheon provided by our First Lady, Jenni Osburn.

Safe Theatres for Independents.

On Thursday 20th June our Occupational Health and Safety Coordinator attended a seminar and workshop at Hamer Hall.  The workshop was initiated and organised by the Arts Well Being Collective, www.artswellbeingcollective.com.au, Theatre Network Australia www.tna.org.au and Safe Theatres Australia.  www.safetheatresaustralia.com

Promoting positive mental health and wellbeing, the Arts Wellbeing Collective is an Arts Centre Melbourne initiative, which through networks, supports better mental health and wellbeing for performing arts workers. Theatre Network Australia is the leading industry organisation for performing arts.  It has been working with the leaders of Safe Theatres Australia to run forums which are designed in a response to sector need.  

The workshop focused on how independents and smaller companies might deal with potential scenarios involving workplace bullying, discrimination and sexual harassment, especially in the absence of formal workplace policies and resources. Discussions on the day centred on how these mentioned organisations are designing policy and protocol to support theatre people in regard to the above topics. There were several scenarios involving group discussion for participants

Of several speakers, one in particular, Kim Tran, from Live Performance Australia www.liveperfomrance.com.au gave great insight into policy development for OH&S and equal opportunity. Some interesting information was shared re committee/board liability and discussion about current resources. Juanita Pope from Justice Connect also described the work of her organisation which is a social justice charity with many shareable resources regarding volunteers and intellectual property. www.NPlaw.org.au.   

It was an interesting and informative forum and supports Beaumaris Theatre’s objective to provide ongoing support, a safe environment and up to date policies for its members and patrons.

Q&A with Pillow Talk writer and director Andy Payne

Beaumaris Theatre is delighted to be presenting a brand new play, Pillow Talk as the third show in its 2019 Season.

Pillow Talk is a tragic comedy about life, love and the promises we make.

Recently we caught up with writer and director Andy Payne and talk about the play. Here is what was said.

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Q. What’s Pillow Talk?

Pillow Talk is a new play. It’s a love story with a rather dark twist. It is a window into the lives of a happily married couple and their family, who promised each everlasting love.  Set in the UK, it references the Voluntary Assisted Dying laws which have recently been introduced in Victoria. One of the characters is a Victorian member of parliament.

Q. What are the themes?

History is littered with the sacrifices of lovers but would you do just anything for someone that you  love? I wrote Pillow Talk to be entertaining. It is a window into the lives of a happily married couple and their family, who promised each everlasting love. But can we really be asked to keep the promises made in the first flushes of romance? Pillow Talk is both funny and thought provoking. It is a conversation everybody needs to have.

Q. Who are the main characters?

The plays follows a couple, Henrietta and Harry, we see them over a period of thirty years from when they were first in love to the dilemma that faces them in retirement. We also meet their adult children Cassie and Justin.

Q. Where did the characters come from?

I knew I wanted to write something for a strong, older, female lead. Henrietta is an amalgam of a number of the strong women I have worked with, one in particular. The other characters emerged from the central dilemma.

Q. What kind of play is it?

Labels are difficult. Pillow Talk is a serious comedy. The comedy comes from the dialogue and relationships between the family members, the tragedy comes from everyday life.

Q. When did you write it?

Pillow Talk began life in 2018 as a creative writing exercise. I had been studying and teaching drama and scriptwriting with the University of the Third Age in Melbourne, U3A. The themes of the play were well received by those who read the early drafts and I realised it was resonating with the audience.

Q. What’s U3A?

U3A is a wonderful international organisation that provides courses and activities for senior members of the community. There are branches in Bayside, Kingston and in the city.

Q. What is the connection with the 1950s movie of the same name?

Absolutely nothing! The name is the only connection and I hope nobody comes hoping to see Rock Hudson and Doris Day. But anyone who does come to see the play will see why it absolutely had to be called Pillow Talk.

Q. You have said that the play is ‘set against the background of the Assisted Dying Legislation in Victoria - what do you mean by this?

I don’t want to spoil the drama for anyone by giving away too much. The character Justin, Henrietta’s son is a Victorian member of parliament working on an imaginary second draft of the legislation. He flies to England to offer support to his mother. Pillow Talk is essentially a love story.

Q. Have you written plays before?

I have spent most of my career writing and developing plays with acting students mainly in schools but it is only recently that I have started to write independently. I enjoy writing musicals and even in this straight play, I couldn’t resist writing one song.

Q. What do you want for your audience?

Firstly, I want people to be entertained, but I want them to be entertained in a way that will make them think and leave the theatre talking about the issues.

Q. And finally who is the play for?

That’s easy, anyone who has been in love.

An Actors Experience

An Actors Experience

by Nick Kong.

Playing Bobby is a dream come true for me.

I grew up in a Traralgon - 2 hours east of Melbourne - and they had a flourishing local theatre community, whom I credit for my passion for music theatre. When I was in Year 8 I was in my very first Sondheim show, a production of Follies (they were desperate for men… even if they were 13). It was during this I heard the song Being Alive for the first time. It was a special for Sir Cameron Macintosh’s 50th Birthday on the ABC and Bernadette Peters sang the song. I had no idea what the lyrics were about but I found the build in the music fascinating. Being a ‘deep and meaningful’ 13 year old, I loved the ballad and the emotion that it carried but was highly disappointed that is seemed it was a female song.

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As luck would have it, the Melbourne Theatre Company produced Company the following year and my ever supportive parents took some friends and I down to see it. When I watched it, I was in awe. In awe about how brilliant the script was. It is so very rare to find a script with such substance in musical theatre. Company has no through line. Rather it could be viewed as a series of vignettes about one mans quest to find meaning in his life. Each vignette introduces Bobby to a different married couple - who are grappling with marriage in some form. The script is beautifully hilarious at one moment, then the next scene presents heart breaking pathos. The music is where the show really comes alive. Sondheim has created a score rich in social reflections and music theatre standards (3 of them Bobby’s).

And the best part for 13 year old me? The realisation that Being Alive was a male song! I travelled that song to every bloody eisteddfod and Trinity Exam across the state. The song also gave me a great love for Sondheim himself and I seek to perform his music whenever I can.

Now that I am older the story of Company is no longer a series of events that one man journeys through. Rather, I view it as a surreal retrospective of moments from Bobby’s life and perspective. He knows that society dictates that by the age of 35 a man should be married with children, however, when he reflects on the lives of his friends, he fails to see the joy and security that a Hallmark Card would call the ‘ideal’. He craves the idea of love, but cannot commit to it - and to his friends, his time is running out. I am almost 35 now, not married (although for different reasons) and having grown up in a small country town, I fully grasp the pressure Bobby faces due to societies expectations.

 
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I am unbelievably excited to delve into this script with such a beautiful cast and I am so grateful to the production team for allowing me the chance to play one of the great male characters in music theatre. The best part is that now I am no longer a young boy who can merely sing this song rather a man who has had the life experience to tell this story.

Company will run from 24 May - 8 June. Tickets are now on sale.

Let me take you back to March 17 2019

by Kirsten Page

Wind your mind back all those weeks ago to March the 17th 2019. It was a Sunday. It probably started, as many other Sundays have started, with the rising of the sun, the chirping of the birds and lots and lots of coffee. Somewhere after my second coffee and before my eighth, when I began to feel human again I realised what the day held. Or didn’t hold as the case would have it.  No rehearsals, no performances. Nothing.

There was a conflict of feelings at this point there was an element of excitement of having some time to laze about at home in my pyjamas and slippers with my puppy and my partner ( who have been somewhat abandoned of late) and a heavy sadness that filled my heart and head with the closing of the show. It such a surreal feeling after spending so many months consumed with many, many things.

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Casting. Lines. Set building. Blocking. Lines. Character work. Set dressings. Lines. Props. Lights. Lines. Rehearsals. Five months consumed with Seminar (probably more). Months of rehearsals with my amazing cast and my amazing behind the scenes support. Hours upon hours of set changing - the poor buggers (they know who they are, including my dad who got roped in for a rehearsal). But it was nailed. My poor partner every three minutes; what about this song? What about this throw rug? Help me make a story board...Please...Not to mention the big PRODUCTION WEEK- 7 days straight at the theatre, every waking moment (when I wasn’t at work).

 And then nothing.

Okay, that’s not totally true I was off to the theatre on March 17th 2019. To take home half the contents of our house, a fair bit from my parents’ house and a few odds and ends of my brothers (which he moved when he came to the show to make prominent on the set). All these items were stolen and pilfered for the set of Seminar. The set dressings definitely came down quicker then they went up. Before leaving the set and space of Seminar I took a moment to look at the empty seats in the auditorium and the empty stage. I remember exhaling. Those four walls were home to some incredible months of hard work and just like that it was over and largely packed away.

It was hard to imagine only the night before the audience was full and my cast and crew gave their last amazing performances of a very successful season. During the final show, I got teary at times thinking about the fact I will never see that bit again or that bit. I was so damn proud. From the very first read through, I knew I had picked the perfect cast and they met my expectations and surpassed them. They put up with me trying random things (some of which were ditched prior to curtain up, thankfully). Working with such a talented group was pure joy and it was so pleasing to work in such a cooperative and friendly group.

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In the land of theatre, people often refer to PSB (Post Show Blues). These hit you post a show funnily enough. I find that they are always proportionate to the amount of enjoyment you have had from any given show. And they have hit hard after this one. While, I will miss the time spent at Beaumaris with the whole team, the laughs, the picnics and the of course the wine, I have left with very fond memories, on the road and some amazing new connections.

I have learnt a lot along the way during the creation of Seminar.

  1. I learnt actor points are apparently worth fighting for, although director points trump actor points

  2. When actors are pulled up for certain habits they just trade them for a new habit- we got there.

  3. Thigh slapping is a thing worth counting

  4. The fuller your mouth is while talking the funnier it becomes

  5. Whipped cream= hilarious

  6. When part of Leonard’s apartment is in Kate’s apartment before the start of the show, stage management will simply pull it through the wall- the magic of theatre

  7. The best looking stage wine is real wine

  8. Some words will transport me straight back to the stage of Seminar ( PARTICPIATING)

  9. I learnt we don’t need Alan Rickman for this show to be a roaring success (may he Rest In Peace) and;

  10. (Most importantly) caramel corn is awful

 
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I have no words, although this long winded article would suggest otherwise. No words to express how grateful I am to the Committee for having me, to those who contributed to Seminar in some way or another. Finally, I cannot articulate how proud I am of my cast and the work they put into this show.  My vision became a reality and the show became more than I hoped for. I wouldn’t change a thing.

Notes from the Musical Director

by Malcom Huddle, Company Musical Director

I’ve always had a passion for musical theatre – way back when I was just nine years old, I was part of the Children’s Choir for a production of Joseph. Needless to say, I’ve been hooked ever since!

I always loved working and learning from many different Musical Directors when I was involved in shows. Watching and listening to how they pieced every harmony together with the cast and brought the orchestra together to really bring the show to life. As time went on, I realised I wasn’t the world’s best actor or dancer, but I was alright at the music side of things. I sang and learnt many instruments throughout high school, and loved conducting, and back in 2006 at the tender age of 16 I was lucky enough to Musically Direct my first show, an original version of Aladdin. I also played in the orchestra pit for many productions with long-time friends and colleagues, learning from them and taking countless advice to my own productions. It was the perfect fit for my passion for music and theatre! I’m very fortunate to continue to work with talented directors and choreographers, as well as fellow MD’s and musicians, on shows both large and small.

My first introduction to Sondheim’s music was many years ago, listening to Into The Woods during a car ride with some typical music theatre friends. I loved his intricate harmonies and clever lyrics, not to mention the complex time changes and structures. I was introduced to Company after watching an amazingly B-Grade movie called ‘Camp’, where one of the characters sings ‘The Ladies Who Lunch’ – I immediately downloaded the soundtrack and was again intrigued by Sondheim’s masterful composition, not to mention the way the music and book are so tightly interwoven in both of these shows.

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When Colin asked me to be part of his application along with Mon and Tess for Company with Beaumaris, I was both ‘excited and scared’ – Sondheim’s music is notoriously complex, both to understand and teach. However, I knew that this amazing team, guided by Colin’s incredible vision and coupled with the lovely and amazing support you get when working with Beaumaris Theatre would make the challenge a very rewarding experience.

The auditions were a big process; we had almost 90 people audition for the 14 roles, so were spoilt for choice. We needed people who were exceptionally strong vocally and musically and were strong character actors. The talent we saw was incredible. We ended up with what has been described as ‘The Avengers of Musical Theatre’ – 14 very experienced and remarkably talented cast members from all over Melbourne working on this iconic show.

We’re now well into rehearsals, and have covered a lot of ground with both the music and the blocking. As I’ve mentioned, there are some very unusual harmonic structures and timing variations in Sondheim’s score, so some rehearsals definitely haven’t been without their challenges! However, the hard work and dedication from the team and our wonderful cast means that we’ll be able to polish everything in no time. A special mention and thanks must go to our rehearsal pianist, Adeline Han – we’re very lucky to have her on board for this show. Adeline is a long time friend of mine, and a phenomenal accompanist who plays through Sondheim’s score (which is practically written as if she had four hands) without batting an eye.

Next month I’ll be starting rehearsals with the orchestra – a group of friends and fellow musicians who I am very fortunate to have come and play for my shows. Again, it will be a challenge to rehearse and put things together on this side of things too, but I’m very excited to bring the orchestra in with the cast for Sitzprobe and production week to really bring the music to life.

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Company will be my third show with Beaumaris Theatre, having had the pleasure of Musically Directing The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee in 2013, and Avenue Q in 2016. The Committee and team at Beaumaris are some of the loveliest and most supportive people to work with on any show, and I cannot think of a more ideal company to stage Company with!

Company tickets are now on sale. Click to book today.

Seminar Review

by Kim Anderson

Beaumaris Theatre’s first production of their 2019 theatrical season is the fast paced, intelligent Seminar by Pulitzer Prize nominated playwright Theresa Rebeck.  Set against the backdrop of New York City, Seminar takes its audiences into an intimate world peopled by four aspiring authors who have each handed over $5,000.00 to a writing instructor of some note for a series of 10 writing seminars.    

We meet Douglas (Cristopher Newton), a pompous young man who whose family connections “might” get him over the line as a Hollywood writer; Kate (Alicia Patzer) who hosts the seminars in her father’s rent controlled Upper West Side apartment and has spent the past six years working over the same short story; Martin (Stuart Anderson); an intense and intelligent writer who refuses to show his work to anyone; Izzy (Rebecca Simpson), an earthy and shameless young woman who grasps every opportunity that presents itself to her, most of them sexual; and Leonard (Bruce Hardie) the bombastic and domineering writing instructor who proceeds to shred his students’ work and egos over the course of the play.

It would be easy for the piece to devolve into a mean spirited rant, yet director Kirsten Page deftly guides the actors through the dark comedy.  The barbed quips the characters throw at each other are briskly paced, delivered with humour and intelligence and punctuated with judiciously placed laughs.  Ms Page’s direction allows the characters to develop sensitively, unfolding in an unhurried manner never becoming strident or unlikable. They may be flawed but they are never un-relatable.  

The strong ensemble cast handles the material exceedingly well, playing off each other effectively which allows an organic and natural pace to emerge as the show moves forward. Prolonged moments of silence within a several scenes are used to great effect and it is lovely to watch each actor reveal their character through subtle body language, facial expression and gesture as they respond to and support their fellow actors and the action onstage.  

Production elements in Seminar ably back up the players, never detracting from the central action.  Fred Pezzimenti’s airy and open set design firmly anchors the show to its location, cleverly transforming before the final scene.  Scene changes are slickly executed with a contemporary soundtrack behind them which does its work to maintain the rhythm of the show.  Costumes have been chosen to enhance character beautifully and serve to highlight individual aspects of each character’s personality with subtlety and care.  

Seminar is an entertaining, thought provoking night out at the theatre.  It will especially appeal to those who enjoy flexing their literary muscles. The production runs through 16th of March with tickets available at http://bit.ly/2TEIgup.