New theatre course is music to ears of Mamma Mia stars

A new musical theatre course recently announced by the University of Adelaide is attracting great interest not just locally, but from interstate and international students.

The new Bachelor of Music Theatre kicks off in 2019 at the University’s Elder Conservatorium and will be run by renowned music theatre expert and educator George Torbay.

He says the benefits of such a course are not just that aspiring musical theatre stars no longer need to study interstate, but there will also be flow on effects for the South Australian arts scene more broadly.

“The whole point of a course like this here is to add to the cultural scene in this state,” George says. “However, more than just keeping young artists here, the course is already attracting applicants from all over Australia and even international applicants.

“SA has been crying out for a degree like this. Music theatre is a rapidly growing art form and incredibly popular across Australia.”

The course will include singing lessons and song coaching, classes in acting, voice and speech, song repertoire and audition technique, ballet, pas de deux, tap and jazz. Students will also have the opportunity to connect with current writers and explore new works as well as gain professional-level experience working within Adelaide’s thriving festival scene.

Zoe Komazec is now living in SA and will teach dance as part of the University of Adelaide’s new musical theatre course.

Musical theatre star Zoe Komazec, who grew up in Adelaide and is currently starring in the hit production Mamma Mia! The Musical which begun this week, is particularly excited about the announcement as she and fiancé Matt Geronimi will be teaching dance as part of the new course.

“When I was contacted about the course I thought it was one of the most exciting things to happen,” says Zoe, who has been based in Sydney for the past five years but is now living in SA.

“Adelaide has produced so many incredibly talented people in various industries, particularly musical theatre. You’d be surprised how many times I mention I am from Adelaide and at least five people are also born and bred Radelaidians.

“Not having to leave this wonderful state straight away is such a bonus, I think it will allow more aspiring young South Aussies an avenue that they thought wasn’t an option.”

Zoe began dancing at age two at her mum’s studio Barbara Jayne Dance Centre in Norwood, seeing her first musical at age eight – The Sound of Music.

Annie Chiswell.

Annie Chiswell is another local musical theatre performer who trained here, at the Adelaide College of the Arts. She too is starring in Mamma Mia! The Musical, which will be her first major production appearance in front of a hometown crowd.

She agrees Adelaide is a breeding ground for great musical theatre talent, although she says time spent interstate can be of benefit.

“For me personally, I believe in any career it is important to take risks and break out of your comfort zone,” says Annie, who saw her first musical The Lion King, in Melbourne at age 10.

“I felt for my career that Melbourne was calling my name, but this doesn’t necessarily have to be the case. I know Adelaide is up and coming in musical theatre training and so hopefully there will be more opportunities to study here.

“I’m also a huge believer in it’s not where you study, but how. I will always be thankful for the artist foundation that SA gave me, and cannot wait to come home and perform.”

Phillip Lowe is yet another Mamma Mia! The Musical star who grew up in SA.

Phillip, who plays Harry Bright in the hit Abba musical, grew up in Jamestown and had no idea as a kid that people were paid to perform as a job.

Jamestown-raised actor Phillip Lowe is back in Adelaide for Mamma Mia! The Musical.

His mother was the piano player for the local production of Pirates of Penzance when Phillip was four years old and he remembers turning the pages for her and singing along as she practiced.

It wasn’t until his brother went to study at WA Academy of Performing Arts (WAPPA) that Phillip realised musical theatre was an actual career path.

However, he didn’t follow his dreams into musical theatrical when he finished school – first, he got a job at a bank and dabbled in amateur theatre.

“I thought I had to have a ‘real’ job. However, one day we got held up by two guys with shotguns so I decided that I was done with real jobs and I auditioned for drama school. I never looked back after that,” says Phillip, who also went on to study at WAPPA and has maintained a stellar career over the past 25 years, appearing in Crazy for You, The Producers, Dusty, Mary Poppins and many more.

Phillip has been based in Sydney for the past 23 years and Mamma Mia! The Musical will be his first time on the Adelaide Festival Theatre stage.

“I cannot wait. It’s a lifelong dream come true,” he adds.

Mama Mia! The Musical is on at the Adelaide Festival Centre until November 18. Click here for tickets.

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Adelaide company involved in Aladdin’s magic carpet

As the much-anticipated Aladdin and its magic carpet musical sweeps its performances around Australia, a niche Adelaide engineering company is helping keep the American-designed centrepiece in the air.

Peter Spooner is predictably tight-lipped on revealing any detail about how the intriguing carpet actually flies, saying only that “it’s actually magic, it’s a flying carpet”.

But adds that he’s looking forward to taking family and friends to see the Disney Theatrical performance when Alchemy helps move it into the Adelaide Festival Centre next year.

Photo by Deen van Meer courtesy of Disney.

The talented engineer, who established Alchemy Engineering with his friend Michael Shone in 2011, is only home in Adelaide for a 40-hour stopover after overseeing the show’s current installation in Perth.

Next stop is Indonesia where he’s helping work on some scenery for the opening of the Asian Games as a mechanical technician, but this job’s details are being kept quiet too.

For this creative company, growth has been about building industry contacts and trust in a multitude of confidential projects.

“Our business is all about building a relationship,” Peter says.

The Aladdin work came from Peter first meeting Australian Mark Henstridge from Disney during a job working on The Lion King in South Africa in 2006, and maintaining a connection.

In a tight-knit global industry, Peter and Michael have also worked on making sets for the State Opera and joining forces with Global Creatures, creators of theatrical arena show Walking with the Dinosaurs.

Alchemy Engineering directors Michael Shone, left, and Peter Spooner.

One of Peter’s favourite jobs was providing engineering and site support for Global Creature’s King Kong production in Melbourne, created in collaboration with PRG Scenic Technologies in the United States.

King Kong was amazing, it was a very big eye opener of how big and technically advanced the market is,” Peter says.

It’s these spin offs that prompted the two to start their business – “there’s the prospect of travel, there’s all the people that you meet, they are really interesting, they’re worldly, plus we’re building big contraptions that are doing some crazy things.”

There’s been work at Vivid in Sydney last year to support an award-winning lighting and sound display and building the floor for Annie the musical.

Peter has also worked with artist Craige Andrae creating installations throughout Adelaide including a statement maple leaf for a Mt Barker housing development and the silver rings sculpture on Osmond Terrace in Norwood.

There’s also the Memorial to the Forgotten Australians, four giant stainless steel daisies in the North Adelaide parklands created as a symbol of healing for children who suffered harm in state care.

While in 2014, Alchemy took care of the mechanics for giant fan leaves created for the Myer Centre fashion show in Sydney.

Alchemy was behind the mechanics for these large decorative leaves overhanging the runway at the Sydney Myer Centre fashion show.

Peter says the company runs a highly flexible and stripped back business model, the two control projects with admin support, and call in “a bunch of casual guys who have industry experience” when projects roll in.

There can be up to seven in the workshop at one time, with the company also relying on a valuable local supply chain of mainly South Australian businesses.

It was back in 2005 when the fitter and turner trained directors met working in the Adelaide Festival Centre engineering department to build scenery and props.

Their shared interest in weekend hobbies led to the two renting a workshop together in Wingfield where Peter was refurbishing his 1972 Toyota Celica car and Michael a sailing boat.

“It was our hobby workshop and we had started buying machines and tools, that was where we were on the precipice, and we decided why not have a go?” Peter says.

They moved into a larger Wingfield site and created four sections to the business, stage and theatre, architectural fabrication – “that’s really ramped up in the past two to three years”, industrial design and corporate display.

Alchemy has worked with architects and builders including Space Craft and Damien Chwalisz on one-off projects from staircases to balustrades and fences.

And on more traditional engineering work, producing wheel nuts, laser cutting and a contract with Adelaide company Top Shed making coffee tampers with a specific design brief.

“All of our suppliers are from SA, apart from some of the electrical components, and we try and buy Australian steel,” Peter says.

“Our business is all about building a relationship, to get the best out of everyone and for everyone to get the best out of us, it’s about people being honest with timeframes and their ability to deliver and it’s about having nice people to work with.”

Visit I Choose SA to meet the people building business and industry in SA, and to find out how your choices make a difference to our state.

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Major Disney stage production to dazzle Adelaide for the first time

Hit Broadway musical Aladdin is set to charm local audiences with half-a-million Swarovski crystals and 337 glittering costumes in 2019, when Disney hits the stage in Adelaide for the first time.

Disney Theatrical Production – which is behind hugely successful musicals The Lion King and Mary Poppins – will present 1994 classic at the Adelaide Festival Centre in April next year.

“Over the years, four of our Disney Theatrical shows have been received in Australia with incredible warmth and affection,” says Disney Theatrical Production president and producer Thomas Schumacher.

“But we know that South Australians have had to travel to those other cities to see those shows.

“So it’s fantastic that – through the Adelaide Festival Centre and the SA Government – South Australians and visitors to Adelaide will be able to experience Aladdin in your wonderful Festival Theatre.”

The arrival of Aladdin in April, 2019, will mark the first time a Disney stage production has been brought to Adelaide.

According to Disney Theatrical, the Australian production features a cast of 34 and 337 glittering costumes featuring 712 styles of beads and almost half-a-million Swarovski crystals.

Twenty six 40-ft trucks will transfer 40 tonnes of exotic flying scenery and 60 tonnes of automation and staging into Adelaide to recreate the colourful fantasy city of Agrabah across the nine-week season.

Aladdin was adapted from the original 1992 animated Disney film, which raked in more than $550m worldwide.

The tale centres around a poor boy, Aladdin, who discovers a Genie in a magic lamp and uses it to rescue a princess.

The Aladdin Broadway show made its world premiere in 2014, and has since expanded its global footprint to Tokyo, Hamburg, London and North America.

Aladdin and Jasmine, played by Ainsley Melham and Hiba Elchikhe.

Adelaide Festival Centre CEO and artistic director Douglas Gautier says securing the smash hit for Adelaide is “tremendously exciting”.

“The investment in our new foyers, facilities and the beautiful new northern promenade and Walk of Fame have secured Adelaide Festival Centre’s place as an attractive venue,” he says.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to see a major musical at the Festival Theatre and we can’t wait to welcome Aladdin, Jasmine, the Genie and the whole show to Adelaide.”

The Festival Centre has recently undergone major transformations and redevelopments, including new northern foyers and the installation of the Walk of Fame.

SA Premier Steven Marshall says that securing the world renowned musical is a “tremendous result” for the state.

“This announcement is a vote of confidence in our arts and creative industries, and securing the world-renowned production on the local stage will not only add to Adelaide’s growing vibrancy, but also help drive economic activity in SA,” he says.

A wait list is now open for those wanting to be first in line when pre-sale tickets land in October. Click here for more information.

Adelaide Festival Centre set for big musicals and more visitors

In 1973 Flinders University student Douglas Gautier was an extra in the opera, Fidelio, at the Adelaide Festival Centre’s official opening.

Fast forward more than 40 years and the proud Adelaidean is at the head of the city’s entertainment attraction.

The Adelaide Festival Centre was Australia’s first multipurpose arts venue when it opened – three months before the Sydney Opera House did – and now hosts one million visitors a year.

“That opening night was a very exciting time,” says Douglas Gautier AM, the centre’s CEO and artistic director.

“Then Prime Minister Gough Whitlam was there and he said, to words of this effect, that the Adelaide Festival Centre was something to make people in Adelaide proud.

“But he said it would also lead the country.”

And lead the country it has.

Adelaide Festival Centre CEO and artistic director Douglas Gautier.

The Festival Centre is home to events within the Adelaide Festival, Adelaide Symphony Orchestra and State Theatre Company, of which draw people from across the globe.

It’s involved in the production of the world’s biggest cabaret festival, Australia’s largest guitar festival and one of the country’s most prominent international festivals, OzAsia.

“We had 50,000 people attend (the OzAsia Moon Lantern Festival) in one year,” Douglas says.

“It says a lot about our city, it’s a lot different than 10 years ago, it’s much more multicultural.

“We try to open it (the Festival Centre) up to all areas of the community and OzAsia is a good indication of that.”

A recent report by Ernst and Young shows the Adelaide Festival Centre’s total economic contribution and social value hit $160m and created 1076 jobs in 2015/16.

The new look new look Adelaide Festival Centre promenade. PHOTO: Kelly Carpenter.

More recently the centre has undergone huge transformations and redevelopments, including its new northern foyers which now face onto Elder Park and the Torrens.

The new riverbank precinct has also welcomed new features including The Star Kitchen and Bar and the Walk of Fame.

Unveiled in January, the Walk of Fame features 132 plaques naming top performers, including Tim Minchin and Olivia Newton-John, who have showcased their talents at the Festival Centre over the years.

Douglas says the new features create a “very compelling package for both locals and visitors alike”.

“We do position ourselves as the main festival city in the country and it’s important that it’s constantly pumping,” he says.

Spot the celebs! The Walk of Fame recipients with Douglas Gautier AM and Premier Jay Weatherill.

The Adelaide Festival Centre Trust (AFCT) also manages Her Majesty’s Theatre (HMT) on Grote Street and is giving the “grand old dame” a facelift, growing its capacity from 970 to 1500.

HMT will close in March before reopening in late 2019/20.

This year is also a bumper year for big musicals, including The Rocky Horror Show, American Idiot, The Wizard of Oz, Priscilla Queen of the Desert, and Mamma Mia.

The sixth musical for the year, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, will open in December 2018, ending a record-run of big song and dance shows.

If 2017’s Matilda the Musical audiences are anything to go by, the 2018 musical lineup won’t be a hard sell.

“People are buying a lot more tickets … with Matilda we sold well over 100,000 tickets and audiences all reacted very well,” Douglas says.

“We have invested very strongly to ensure these big shows are coming here.”

Musical composer Tim Minchin alongside his ‘star’. Tim composed, Matilda, which drew thousands of visitors to the Adelaide Festival Centre in 2017.

This year marks Douglas’ 12th year being back in Adelaide after living in Hong Kong for 25 years.

During his time in Asia he headed one of the world’s great art festivals in Hong Kong and was deputy executive director of the Hong Kong Tourism Board.

Douglas says Adelaide might be the country’s smallest capital city but it “punches well above its weight” in arts and tourism.

“We believe in this city, particularly in its creative industries,” he says.

“It’s got a certain power and that’s people power.”

The Adelaide Festival Centre is holding a free public Open Day on February 11. See more information here.

Visit the I Choose SA for Industry website to read more stories about key industry leaders, why they’ve chosen SA as a base and how the state is enabling them to succeed.