Posts Tagged ‘West Side Story


Michelle Lamarca does Zen Zen Zo




You’ll remember Michelle Lamarca from her very saucy portrayal of Anita in West Side Story at Noosa Arts Theatre. She also won the Sunshine Coast Theatre Festival’s Adjudicator’s Award last year.



Michelle REALLY wanted to do some “warrior training” with Brisbane Physical Theatre company, Zen Zen Zo. She travelled through peak hour traffic and FIRE to get to her first class…








I found out about Zen Zen Zo through email conversations with Margi Brown Ash, who had kindly given me the 2014 Adjudicator’s Award at the Sunshine Coast Theatre Festival! (Of course I’d hit her up for some advice on where to train in Brisbane).


As a performer I have always hit on the same problem and that is not feeling connected to my body on stage. Sometimes I feel uncoordinated, distant and most likely the one to make mistakes or get myself injured. I hadn’t heard of Zen Zen Zo but I had heard of the Japanese acting method of Suzuki through a performer friend and was interested to learn about this system too! Zen Zen Zo training is a combination of Suzuki Method, Viewpoints, Butoh and Composition.




I contacted the company ASAP and it turns out the “limited” beginners classes are on my day off too – win! and at a reasonable time, so I can get the car from my partner when she finishes work and then hit the road to Brissy from Noosa.


My instructions were to bring water and a pair of socks. I carefully programmed my GPS, packed my dinner and was ready for my adventure. Not being aware of Brisbane peak hour traffic I arrived late in the city and pretty much got myself lost in the one way streets. And I mean lost! I missed the class. I felt defeated, upset and extremely pissed off. I emailed Lynne Bradley that night (the company director) apologising that I won’t be able to get to Brisbane in time and unfortunately will not be doing the classes. It wasn’t meant to be and I put the experience down to just that.. an experience. And maybe I should consider moving closer to the city.


Lynne replied the next day with a lovely email. She was impressed with my dedication to drive all that way and invited me to attend the advanced classes, which didn’t start until 7:30. This would give me plenty of time to arrive on time even if I did get lost! Advanced classes!!! On one condition: I don’t miss any classes and come with an open mind and socks.


I thought to myself I will swim through floods to get to these classes!


The following Monday I was prepared! My partner printed me a map with pictures and was by the phone with Google Maps to guide me. All was going to plan when suddenly I hit a traffic jam near the airport. I’m sure the cars ahead heard my swearing. I couldn’t believe this was happening to me! There was a grassfire dangerously coming across the road that I had to drive across. I had never seen a fire so big and followed the other cars through some of the flames! I laughed to myself.


I had actually driven through flames to get to these classes!


And it was well worth it! Zen Zen Zo’s The Actor’s Dojo is held at the Judith Wright Centre. I arrived with plenty of time to find a park and enough time to introduce myself to the other classmates who were warming up ready for their session.



I love acting classes of any sort! I love the people, the conversations, the clothing…



Artists need to be around fellow artists to feel normal, inspired and to have a sense of belonging.



The advanced classmates were very friendly and supportive, reassuring me that I would be fine and to just enjoy it. Lynne introduced me to the class and explained my situation and I felt a warm welcome from everyone. Some students have been studying for 11 years and were kind enough to share some tips with me. Most of it went over my head!




We started the class by taking off our shoes and socks to warm up around the space, stretching and moving. It felt quite normal to me and I started to feel safer. We paired up in a line and started what seemed like a dance with stomping. I tried to keep up with the other classmates.


I consider myself to be not too bad with fitness but after about 90 seconds I was completely covered in sweat and knackered! With the music and intensity I started to lose myself in the movements. I felt like a warrior. The energy around me was electric and I felt very inspired! And aware! Aware of my body and the space around me! BINGO!


Anyone interested in physical theatre or improving themselves has to give this training a go!


Coming from a martial arts background I noticed similarities to how the core is used and how important breathing is, and the centre of gravity. Like karate, I felt healthier and empowered! I noticed too that different exercises had different energies too. next we moved onto “viewpoints” Lynne asked anyone who wanted to get up to find a space on the floor , I didn’t hesitate (I drove through flames! I may as well give it my all!). I ran to a corner and stayed still not really knowing what I was doing. Then suddenly we had to change/move! Fast! So I ran to the other corner, again…still. A student ran full speed up to me face to face, staring me in the eyes! It should have been intimating but I decided not to think. But to just be.


The class spoke about tempo, spacial awareness and response.


It was explained to me that if you can train to look inwards at yourself but from an audience point of view (I forget the cool Japanese word for this), you can utilise your space to be more appealing and create a great performance.


I can see why artists love to practice at Zen Zen Zo. There was talk about shapes, stillness, energy.


A lot of it went over my head and a lot I felt I resonated with. every student was involved and passionate it was infectious! yes my mind was totally blown there is so much to learn in Zen Zen Zo! In only one lesson I felt confident as a performer and felt I haven’t even scratched the surface with what the body can do. An hour and a half went quickly and we all finished the class sitting in a circle talking about what we had learnt. I thanked Lynne and my classmates and drove home looking forward to the next lesson.







West Side Story


West Side Story

Noosa Arts Theatre

11 – 28 September 2013




Reviewed by Xanthe Coward


It’s West Side Story but not as you know it. Director, Sam Coward, notorious for his controversial plot points and front-page theatrics, has once again pushed the boundary and raised the bar. Sunshine Coast audiences have never seen anything like it, and yet this is the sort of theatre we love to experience. It’s not done enough, and we know this is so because there are very few directors who can pull it off. It’s real, raw, and gutsy. And at the same time this version resonates with tender moments, the familiar tugs at the heartstrings, the symbolic, and some rather Brechtian cum Matrix representations of death!


A bullet is imagined, shaped by the actors’ hands and propelled across the space by the hands and the conviction of the artists. Buckets of paint are produced at precisely the right moment, and we see the foolishness and tragedy of jealousy, hate, blind rage and gang war – any war – in one vivid splash of red; it’s a powerful image. It’s a bittersweet story made all the more poignant by the director’s take on the futility of fighting.


The performers remain on stage for the duration, sitting and supporting the action, remaining intensely focused and chiming in with harmonies and backing vocals in the bigger numbers. This works a treat, allowing unwavering attention from the cast throughout the show; it’s something that is often so lacking on our community stages. (Because “community theatre is just for fun”, right? Discuss. #communitytheatre) Thanks to the awesome talent of Lighting Designer, Travis Macfarlane, this production also looks professional, with intimate spaces lit perfectly within the open space of the stripped-back theatre, in another first for Noosa Arts Theatre.


The rehearsal process has been demanding – I know – and the hard work has paid off. These performers, some of whom had never graced the stage before, have learned focus, discipline, and how to take direction. They’ve further developed a skill set that includes improvisational and collaborative skills, a repertoire of character traits, a more musical ear, vocal sass and physical acumen that some of them didn’t know they had!


Stephanie Brown’s choreography perfectly embraces the grungy feel of the street and the tough relationships established there. The dance happens organically, flowing on from the action, transitions that in less capable hands would appear clunky and kitsch. For a classic dance show with its original, immediately recognisable choreography by Jerome Robbins, this is an entirely new, seamless dance aesthetic for actors, and I wish we could see more of it on the professional stage. (Once again, I wish more of our professionals would come up to the beautiful Sunshine Coast to see productions like this one! Are you CRAZY missing the opportunity to experience that sort of weekend once or twice a year?! I’m practicing patient acceptance with all you.). We see the characters very clearly through their movement, and the humour and pathos of ensemble numbers (America, Cool and Krupke) showcase this cast’s ability to tell a story very simply, and in a dramatic form that doesn’t go so far into another realm that we can’t relate to its core messages. And that’s key to the success of this production – you might not have seen before, paint used in such an abstract manner to represent blood on stage, and you might not expect the action to start out in the street and see, in plain, view, the actors warming up backstage  – but the combination of dramatic forms used work to bring us a clear, almost cinematic style in a bare theatrical space that allows us to become a part of the storytelling. It’s like being on location, and when the director calls, “ACTION!” (in this case, the call for “LIGHTS!”) we’re suddenly lost in the magic…


West Side Story Image by Andrew Seymour


Jordan Russell’s Maria is a little stronger than you might expect, and rightly so, juxtaposed against Michelle Lamarca’s Anita, a tough, tattooed, velvet-hot-pants-clad little dynamite; she dances, belts out her songs, and establishes a relationship on stage with Maria that is at once sensitive, protective and forgiving. Their duet A Boy Like That/I Have a Love is perfectly measured; Russell is completely convincing and Lamarca’s fury gradually mellowed by her sister’s heartfelt words. These girls work beautifully together, bringing us the tricky ebb and flow of a real family dynamic.


West Side Story Image by Andrew Seymour


Hayden Rodgers is a gentle Tony, but he’s not a sap, as we so often see. Instead, he retains the cool, easy-going exterior of the lax leader of the Jets and at the same time, levels up to win Maria, showing her that he’s sensitive, respectful, fun and daring, and ready to commit to being with her for life. The duet delivered from the “balcony” wins us over in an instant; it’s sweet but not saccharine and we believe every moment. The bridal shop scene, so often slow and silly (well, c’mon, it is!), in this production makes us smile and genuinely hope for the best. It’s staged innovatively and it’s delightful; I remember that One Hand, One Heart was my parents’ wedding song, and it holds a special place in our family’s collective memory.


West Side Story Image by Andrew Seymour


Which brings me to Barnardo (in the film he was my mother’s favourite) and in this production he works hard – at times a little too hard – to convince us of his place in the family. After we had to do a shout out to find them, I’ve found the men in this show to be exceptional. (I overheard, murmured by the woman sitting behind me on opening night after a sharp intake of breath as she sat down, “Oh! They’re such BIG boys, aren’t they?”) The Sharks support Barnardo (Donovan Gaspar) in this role as if their lives depended on his leadership (and they do). Likewise, the Jets are such a strong bunch (and yes, some of them are pretty, er, extraordinarily strong-looking; good work, guys!) that I was at first genuinely surprised to see – and hear – them nail their individual roles and the powerful ensemble sound in this show. Props to Vocal Coach, Karina Gough, who has coaxed many of these performers to a level of performance they were not aware they had in their repertoire. Speaking of impressive vocal performances…


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Adam Flower is Riff, the real leader of the Jets, and I know you know I love this guy (his Jesus Christ in our Superstar in 1999 is up there with Tim Minchin’s recent performance). His suave, swinging acapella opening number, and his cool stage presence wins our hearts and keeps his gang at his heels. Completely convincing, Flower gives us the masterclass on character and nuance that we missed scheduling at the theatre this year (well, we’ve been busy!).


WSS_AS8_6944 (4) Credit Andrew Seymour


Ian Mackellar (Doc), Frank Wilkie (Officer Krupke/Snowboy) and Stephen Moore (Lt Schrank) each bring such depth and breadth of experience, and their expert interpretations of their roles to the stage; I know the younger members of this company have learned a lot from these three, who are some of our favourite Sunshine Coast performers. Always the showstoppers, Officer Krupke (and its kick line), and Cool (and its groovy, too-cool-for-school choreography) show us of just what the boys – and Ms Brown – are capable.


WSS_AS8_6941 (3) Credit Andrew Seymour


Unfortunately my only problem with the production comes in the form of the musos, under the guidance of Musical Director, Noel Bowden, who – let’s face it – has done a lot with what he’s had to work with. The crux though is that it’s not been enough and in a production of this calibre it’s completely unacceptable for the orchestra to perform below par but indeed they do, or did on opening night. I commend the singers on their musicality and their solid focus, without letting us know how hard they are having to work on counting and staying with the under-rehearsed musicians. I can imagine that were this production aptly supported by a professional orchestra, it would blow my mind, and all we can hope is that they improve during the season, particularly the clarinets and the string section…. perhaps they already have, and I’ll look forward to hearing them in the final performance on Saturday. The term “professional” indicates a particular standard and this is not what we have heard from them yet.


The entire West Side Story 2013 season sold out within days of opening night, and last week in my column for the Sunshine Coast Daily, I discussed what it is that makes a sold-out show. I discussed it rather poorly there, I admit it was not my best column (all the elements were there but terribly composed!), but I’ll challenge you to tell me here, what do you think makes a sold-out show? It’s not just word-of-mouth! There must be cause to rave over a show after all!


If you’re lucky enough to have seen this production, what have you loved about it, and what would you like to see from our local community stages (and from those down the road in Brisbane) next? I know I’d like to see the same level of commitment from all involved every time we stage a show (sorry, other theatre widows), and a standard that some of you have only ever considered to be paid “professional” work. It’s like running a race or being part of a team sport – it’s fun to be in it, sure, but how much more fun does it become when you WIN?! Sam Coward’s production of West Side Story for Noosa Arts Theatre proves that we can work harder, smarter, and have more fun for the WIN! #FTW


N.B. There are some individuals in this ensemble who I hope will continue to perform, though I won’t single them out here. The same magical thing happened when we did Superstar in ’99, and so much amazing, awesome talent came out of the woodwork to do the show…and then disappeared again, back where they’d come from, mostly to the hills I think?! If you’ve been involved in a top production, it’s only time and changing priorities that will limit your involvement again, so do consider coming back to us to do it all again sometime before life takes another turn! You ARE amazing! x


Photo Credit: Andrew Seymour

See more production pics here

Image by XS Entertainment


It’s Opening Night! (It’s West Side Story but not as you know it!)


After just two preview performances, Sam’s West Side Story opens in Noosa tonight!




I’m excited! And exhausted! I’m even more exhausted just thinking about the rest of the day now, packing fabulous, comfortable gear ie (but sadly, no Harry Potter leggings in my collection yet!) and catching up on some things before I attend opening night, and then getting up before 5am to head to the Gold Coast for the Problogger Training Event (#PBEVENT) at QT GOLD COAST. Yes, I got me my roomie and we’re coming down! Of course, all the other delegates have been talking/blogging about this event for weeks but I haven’t had time to think about it! This morning I took a look at the schedule and planned to attend the following sessions, although who knows what will happen once I’m there and flitting about! It’s supposed to be all about brand, direction and monetisation at this stage…




Keynote – Darren Rowse


Launch Your Freelance Writing Career

Sunset Lounge 9:45am – 10:40am



Valerie Khoo and Kelly Exeter

Informal Q & A session focusing on using a blog to launch your freelance writing career. Opportunity to talk intimately with Valerie Khoo and Kelly Exeter. Bring along your questions and get ready to learn from the experts as well as attendees.


Morning Tea



Sunset Lounge 11:15am – 12:10pm


Informal Q & A session focusing on how to begin monetising your blog. Opportunity to talk with Tsh Oxenreider and Darren Rowse. Bring along your questions and get ready to learn from the experts as well as attendees.


The Step Changers

Pipeline Room 12:15pm – 1:10pm


Three successful bloggers share the turning points in their blogging journeys, from starting out to garnering large followings, site redesigns and making money from their blogs

  • covering different niches of travel / fashion / beauty / lifestyle – information will be relevant to all bloggers
  • content ideas that gather the most traffic
  • product design and learnings from launches
  • how to manage your time effectively on social media – knowing which platforms to focus on
  • Diversifying sources of income on your blog
  • how to work with brands
  • Networking – why networking in real life is so important




Creating Your First EBook

Pipeline Room 2:15pm – 3:10pm



The Fortune Cookie Principle

Sunset Room 2:15pm – 3:10pm



Reinventing Yourself

Pipeline Room 3:15pm – 4:10pm


What happens when you want to change direction?

Sometimes it feels like the Internet changes faster than you can blink. But sometimes you also feel like you’re stuck in a rut with your online presence. How do you know when it’s time for a change? Yes, change is risky—but it’s essential if you want to keep loving what you do. Tsh will share what she’s learned this past year when she massively changed her well-established brand, along with practical tools, ideas, and inspiration to help you reinvent your online space.


Afternoon Tea


Keynote – How to do What You Want – Clare Bowditch

Pipeline Room 4:45pm – 5:30pm

Hilton drinks and networking



Keynote – Living in the Now – Trey Ratcliff

Trey Ratcliff is a photographer, artist, writer and adventurer with over 10 million social media followers. Each day, Trey posts a new photo to his website,, which receives over half a million monthly page views. While those attributes now define who Trey is today, that wasn’t always the case. Trey will share some of the more traumatic and embarrassing stories from his past that helped shape his perspective on art and life; and how photography changed everything for him. You will be encouraged and inspired to make the most of your talents and passion right now.


Affiliate Marketing – Darren Rowse

Sunset Room 10:30am – 11:25am



Affiliate marketing – Darren Rowse will take you through the basics to earning revenue through affiliate marketing, then talk with a panel of experts on how to best make money with affiliate programs via your blog.


Morning Tea


Blogging to build your small business and your Brand

Sunset Room 12:00pm – 12:55pm


Blogging is a powerful yet low-cost way to position you as a leader on your industry, convert more customers and generate more revenue streams. This session will help you:

  • Map out a blueprint on your blogging strategy (depending on what stage you are at in business – new, growing, established)
  • Determine what your blog can achieve for your business
  • Find your “brand” voice
  • Tell your “power stories”
  • Figure out whether you should include video or audio podcasts (with clear take-away instructions on how to create them)
  • Leverage opportunities to write books and speaking opportunities
  • Build your audience and brand by connecting with other bloggers and influencers.




Video: Create, Edit, Publish

Sunset Room 2:00pm – 2:55pm


How to make video content on your iPhone / iPad and the key ingredients to making something people want to watch!
From filming tips to editing you can make something moving and informative with just your iPhone or iPad.


Google Analytics

Sunset Room 3:00pm – 3:55pm


If you’re not tracking it you can’t improve it. Google Analytics is more than page views, unique visitors and referral links. Find out how to setup your Google Analytics to track conversions, measure “assists” and work out how to make more money from your blog through science.


Afternoon Tea


Closing Remarks – Darren Rowse

Pipeline Room 4:30pm – 5:00pm



So. There you have it. My big plan for #PBEVENT! I’m hoping I can make some decisions about this blog and The Other Blog and be better able to schedule time for each, although that is something maybe no one can help me with! As long as there’s also some time over the weekend to settle poolside for a while…


If you missed a ticket you can attend VIRTUALLY (I’m not an affiliate, just thought you should know).


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Anyway, there’s a heap to do before that! We’ve enjoyed lots of local publicity already for West Side Story and for good reason – this show is something different! I saw the first preview on Tuesday night and I’m looking forward to seeing it run faster and slicker tonight! If you can still get a ticket (the season is more than 90% sold!), go see some of our newest talent taking to the stage alongside some of our most respected Sunshine Coast performers, including Frank Wilkie, Stephen Moore and Ian Mackellar. This is the most exciting Noosa Arts Theatre production since Influence and when everybody else is talking about it too you’ll be glad you didn’t miss it!


West Side Story opens tonight. Season continues 13, 14, 18, 19, 20, 21, 25, 26, 27, 28 at 7:30pm. Matinees 15 & 22 at 2pm and 28 at 1pm.Bookings online




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Something Great is Coming…it’s West Side Story but not as you know it!

Something Great is Coming…it’s West Side Story but not as you know it!


West Side Story Image by Andrew Seymour




Noosa Arts Theatre previews its bold reimagining of the classic and much-loved musical West Side Story.

Directed by Sam Coward, this version is nothing like you’ve seen before, with the cast on stage for the duration, and ensemble members performing multiple roles, including that of lighting techs, in a first for the Sunshine Coast when in addition to their character roles, they manipulate hand-held lighting devices to support the action. The lighting design itself is something special, thanks to the vision and technical expertise of our dear friend Travis MacFarlane, who trained – and teaches – at WAPPA.


I’m not even biased (in fact, I’m probably more critical of my husband than of any other director) when I say that this production could be re-staged successfully anywhere in Australia, and if I could fly in some of the producers from down south to see it, I would. LISA CAMPBELL, DAVID CAMPBELL, NEIL GOODING, I’M LOOKING AT YOU.


Skeptics noted the small space and the young cast from the start, but the space is intimate and works well, allowing the audience to get up close and personal with a cast of mixed ages and experiences, and with a couple of things in common. They share Sam’s vision, despite some early insecurity (ye of little faith!), and they’ve worked damn hard to lift the level of performance to the standard Sam always demands of his performers. The look and feel of this production is something entirely new, and with some seasoned actors in the mix, including Adam Flower, Frank Wilkie, Stephen Moore and Ian Mackellar, the younger members of the company have delighted in seeing the theory put to action. There will be audience members who KNOW these performers and wonder how on earth they have come so far in just a few short months, with school and family and friends and jobs happening concurrently with demanding dance, vocal and acting rehearsals. PROPS TO FAMILIES AND PARTNERS!


West Side Story Image by Andrew Seymour


As happens during the creative process (if it doesn’t there’s something very wrong with your cast and your process!), the company has become very close and this is in no small part to the efforts of everybody involved, but most of all it’s ingrained in the way Sam prefers to work. If you’ve done a show with Sam you’ll know he’s more of a Mother Hen than the cast’s eldest matriarch! He seems to spend valuable sleeping hours (or cleaning the floors hours) with cast members or the creative team, either on the phone or in person. This makes for hellish conditions at home, with both of us too tired and too cranky to actually uphold our respective ends of a conversation, but the extra time and the personal connections Sam makes and encourages others to make result in a better, sharper show and a more enjoyable process…for those involved in the process. Parents of the students involved might be feeling much the same way but I cannot tell you how proud you’ll be to see the end result! AND QCS IS DONE AND DUSTED! CHEERS! HOORAY!


West Side Story Image by Andrew Seymour


I’m always really proud of our shows – and I’m terrified of our next one, but more about that burlesque beauty later – and in that regard, West Side Story is no different. Community theatre is about community. Of course it is. We make friends, we have fun, and we put on a show. But when the creative process is enlightening, and the show is sensational, we enjoy the whole experience even more. The event is more fun when we WIN! As audience members, we get for nix the experience of another world at our doorstep and a story – and talent – to talk about for ages. If you’re in Brisbane, Caloundra, Cotton Tree or wherever and you think it’s too far to travel for an “amateur” show, think again. The amateurs are doing it for love at a very professional level. Come up for a weekend in the sun by the sea and just see for yourself what we’re doing up here.

CHOOKAS and big love to the awesome cast and crew of West Side Story, and congrats to Noosa Arts Theatre & committee for having the vision and the guts to get this one up.


West Side Story Image by Andrew Seymour


West Side Story previews tonight, opens Thursday and continues until September 28. Limited seats remaining. Bookings




West Side Story Auditions – Noosa Arts Theatre

West Side Story Auditions at Noosa Arts Theatre this Weekend!

Noosa Arts Theatr Front Entry

This weekend, in between our green smoothies, coffee, vino, ADELE UP LATE and Katie Noonan’s SONGBOOK Sam is auditioning hopefuls for the upcoming Noosa Arts Theatre production of West Side Story.

One of his favourite shows ever, this version of West Side Story will establish a contemporary urban feel from the outset, and challenge fans of the original production style. Because I’m not directly involved in this one (from now until September I have my french tips in too many other pies, people!), I will be your eyes and ears throughout the process. You’ll learn a bit more about what goes on behind the scenes. More about that after the auditions.

Noosa Arts Theatre ain’t that big a place, it’s a lovely little intimate theatre, and having been privy to the early ideas being discussed with committee and the production team, I know audiences will be surprised with the way the space is to be utilised. Performers will experience something different at Noosa Arts too!

Bringing one of our fave Sunshine Coast choreographers, Stephanie Brown on board, means that the look and feel of Sam’s West Side Story is going to test cast members in the initial stages, and ask them to be open to trying anything. I know! How excitement! It will be no different to working with Sam on any other project!

Sam Coward

Director, Sam Coward. Image by Blueprint Studios.

So are you auditioning?


If you call today you can still book an audition spot for Sunday 28th April but Saturday 27th April is BOOKED OUT!



Stephanie Brown

Choreographer, Stephanie Brown. Image by picture this! photography.

Assistant Director: Synda Turnbull

Musical Director: Noel Bowden

Choreographer: Stephanie Brown

Join the Facebook group to be part of the conversation!


CLICK HERE for Available Parts & Character Outlines

Need some last minute audition tips? Remember our good friend Todd Schroeder?

Check out what he’s been teaching performers for years!

Principal Roles include:  
Maria, Bernardo, Anita, Riff, Tony, plus the 4 adult roles:
Officer Krupke, Doc, Schrank, and Glad Hand.

By appointment 

Saturday, APRIL 27 – BOOKED OUT!

Sunday, APRIL 28 from 9.30am

An pianist/accompanist will be present at auditions to play your music, 
or bring your own backing CD.  A CD player will be provided.

Due to time constraints, please keep your singing audition to 16-20 bars Maximum.

Performance dates: 

SEPTEMBER 11, 12, 13, 14, 18, 19, 20, 21, 25, 26, 27, 28 at 7:30pm 

SEPTEMBER 15 and 22 at 2pm

For more information about Sunshine Coast productions and auditions contact Synda via email or keep an eye on Facebook and


Strange Attractor – Sam Coward

Strange Attractor

Strange Attractor

A Chat with Sam Coward


It’s hard to catch my husband for more than 2 minutes at a time so we’re lucky we got this much out of him.

This weekend is your last chance to see Sam in what he says will be his final role on stage for a while. And he’s good. And I’m his biggest critic. You should see this production, it’s good; it’s Simon Denver’s staging of Sue Smith’s bold Australian play about a Pilbara community rocked by the unexpected death of their mate, Gus, played by Sam.


Tell us about Gus

Gus has a fairly fast decline from being enthusiastic and somewhat superficial about his role as the safety officer. He’s got an IQ of 133. And then all of a sudden we see his decline; he’s obviously been in the job too long and he sees the de-civilisation in the camp that brings him to breaking point. He resorts to drugs and alcohol, which leads him to doing something stupid. Perhaps if he weren’t depressed he wouldn’t have taken the risk, which ultimately led to his death. Did the drugs and alcohol make the risk possible?


How much has the environment contributed to the death of Gus?

Gus is a good man. You see him trying to fit in and he’s an Alpha but it’s not about intellect in that environment. It’s as superficial as “might has right” and it’s a Neolithic hierarchy. Placed in those extreme environmental conditions, combined with a lawless and loveless mental condition, basic instincts govern.


Are there any answers by the end of the play?

By the end we learn that relationships are all that matter but people are still going to be attracted to the bright lights and the promise of money. They’ll put themselves into shit conditions to make a lot of money fast. The resource boom FIFO jobs are traps. They sound like they’re a good thing for the family, they’re sold attractively but these jobs are just cheese in the trap. The alcohol, the drugs…

There must be people who find the lifestyle attractive. It’s empty, shallow, and it’s easy until you stop and think about it. It’s purely about the wants. There’s no love, there are just connections.


What’s it like to play a dead guy?

It’s funny. Because you’re one of the guys but you’re not performing as one of the guys. They’re all talking about me but I’m not there talking with them. I have a different relationship with them.


Tell us about working with SRT

The company is cavalier, crazy and raw. Whether the success of their shows is by accident or design we’ll never know. Simon says the success of a show is 99% casting and he’s right; that’s what we see him do.

There’s a high degree of trust in the SRT process, where actors in the fold are trusted and it’s more a baptism of fire for the newbies. Weaknesses are exposed, ridiculed, and laughed about until they’re not weaknesses anymore. It’s survival of the fittest. You can either work the way we work or you can’t. There’s no management and no handholding. Everybody knows what he or she is doing and they expect you to do the same. When you join SRT for a production it’s sink or swim.


So describe the rehearsal process…

BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Oh. You mean Bump In and Tech? That’s it. No, really, that’s it.


Is this an important play?

Yes, it’s very relevant; it takes an up close look at the impact of the FIFO phenomenon on Australian families. There’s so much perpetuated about the mining culture and this is a glimpse at the truth.


What’s this about a Boys’ Shed at Noosa Arts Theatre?

The Mens’ Sheds comprise men over 60 who hang out and build stuff. The proposal is to start up a boys’ arm of the Mens’ Shed to provide role models for the sons of FIFO fathers, as well as opportunities to learn and apply new practical skills. It’s an old school idea for a new generation of Lost Boys.


What about a Girls Shed?

Well, they’re everywhere…salons, stores, and coffee shops.


Righto… What’s next? The Pirate Show is ongoing, at least until the 22nd. What do you have on after that?

Soiree_2013The Pirate Show is the first theatre restaurant concept the Sunshine Coast has seen for years so we hope to bring you a return season later in the year. We have some other concepts up our puffy pirate shirt sleeves too. Next Saturday 9th February the Sunshine Coast Theatre Alliance presents their annual Soiree, a night of fun and great food, and the season launches from our Alliance theatre members. Check out for details on how to book and how to get involved at your local community theatre.


Following that, I’m involved behine-the-scenes with Noosa Arts Theatre’s West Side Story, directed by Synda Turnbull, and I’m directing opening and closing pieces for the Noosa International Food and Wine Festival and Floating Land. And you know XS has a heap of other projects, which we’ll reveal details about later in the year.


Book online for Strange Attractor


Book online for the Sunshine Coast Theatre Alliance Soiree


Find audition info for the Noosa Arts National One-Act Playwriting Competition and West Side Story here





West Side Story

I wrote in my previous post that there is a place for time-honoured traditional homages to shows that we know and love. Or something like that, anyway. The new touring production of West Side Story, currently playing at QPAC, tried to be just that. And when I say “just” that, I mean only that. It may well have sold out in various venues all over the globe but this was not the West Side Story that I know and love. It was certainly not the West Side Story that it appeared to try to replicate.

Having said that, I’m aware that you may have read one or two rave reviews already. This is not one of them. In fact, I found only one rave review and I read it and deferred posting my own, thinking that perhaps, on this occasion, I might be wrong (I have been known to be wrong on the odd occasion). But then I remembered that I’d read other reviews and I had, in fact, seen the same show as those critics. I was also reminded that a review is merely an opinion. And everybody is entitled to expressing that. It’s just that some of us have a compulsive urge to publish our opinions on the Internet! And oh, how interesting are the differing views and opinions on this particular show! There is a chasm between what I and some others think of this production.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m a really generous audience member. Even having read unfavourable reviews from the runs in previous cities, I’ll go in with very few expectations. No, wait. I have a few expectations; especially if it’s a touring professional show AND a classic.

  1. I pay to see the show. I love comps and champagne on opening night as much as the next theatre-goer but I don’t make a habit of asking for tickets and I don’t mind paying for them, knowing that I’m contributing to the growth of our industry. What I expect in return, for the cost of my ticket is a professional show. Perhaps my interpretation of “professional” is different to that of, say, David Atkins Enterprises.
  2. Sometimes I go see a show purely because it is marketed well. I’m a sucker for advertising, the perfect consumer, of shows, skin care products, iPhone apps, glossy mags, alternate medicine (how good is the migrastick?! How perfectly soothed, calmed and totes not crazy with pain does she look?!) See? Barnum Bailey said it (many have sung it. Raul is one of my faves, making me think, inexplicably of Mr Percival. Um. Casting tip, anyone? Time to do Barnum again? Will it ever be time to do Barnum again?!) You get it. If it’s new and exciting, I’ll buy it. But to buy into the story of a classic show, one that I know and love; the version is going to have to live up to its claims.
  3. I expect to see our industry’s best performers. Were they these performers? Well, I’m not sure. I have my doubts, largely, I suspect, because of the way they were directed and allowed to give us a second rate performance on this particular night. I’m also happy, as you would know if you follow this blog, to see and support the industry’s rising stars, our new talent, IF THEY ARE GOOD. I’m not saying that this was a poor ensemble. I’m saying that most of them were cast in the wrong show and left up there to be dancers who can sing and act a little (I also suspect that Action may have been told that he was the “actor” of the company and so decided to really let us know that. Over and over and over-the-top again).

I grew up with, respectfully respectively, my dad and mum, singing and twirling (as a singer, my mum makes a great twirler), to the original soundtrack recording in the kitchen. I always wondered how my dad kept mum (maybe that’s how: singing and twirling), you know, as opposed to the (1961) movie’s other star, George Chakiris, getting her in the end, because God knows, she would have willingly gone! Probably lucky for me and the siblings, she compromised, having One Hand, One Heart played at their wedding. In the movie, this scene is excruciatingly cute and daggy, representing all the joy and innocence of young love and making me cringe even to think about it.

In Brenner and Atkin’s production, this scene stinks. Sorry, I really hope some of you felt differently but I have coached un-WAPPA-ed teenagers who come across as a stronger star-crossed pair of lovers than Josh and Julie managed. In fact, let’s do that shout out, shall we? To Ms Mel White and her creative team at Matthew Flinders Anglican College because, HOLY SHIT THEIR SHOW WAS GOOD. I’m not even being biased. Not one bit. Kudos to the upcoming stars (no, really; look out for them), Charlie Sells and Lauren Lodge-Campbell, who worked with me to get this scene and this song REAL. It took a bit of convincing, that they had to face each other and lock eyes before locking lips but it was just so obvious that THAT is what Josh and Julie needed to be told too! A different sort of connection was missing from the action between members of the rival gangs and there was not a lot of tension throughout the places I wanted to hold my breath. And Anita at Doc’s? ALMOST GOT IT. Again, if you’re going to replicate a classic, please give us opportunities to experience the same roller coaster ride all over again! That’s precisely why some of us are there and you owe us that much.

More of these sorts of opportunities might encourage young performers to question their approach to their craft and set higher expectations for themselves and the productions they are involved in. I wonder if Josh or Julia ever asked of the director, Joey McKNeeley, “Um…hey Joey? Why are we not looking at each other for this most poignant and beautiful moment in what will otherwise remain a corny, daggy, cute, kitsch scene?”

I could write about this West Side Story and all its associated issues for days. It’s fascinating to me that something with so much money behind it could go so wrong. I guess we add it to the list. What list is that? You may well ask. I’ve asked Sam to elaborate on this little theory so, very simply, I will say this: we have our Cheeseburger Theatre list. On it, are more and more of what should be the newest, most fabulous, spectacular, mind-blowing, blah blah blah shows. Sadly, a few of the shows we’ve seen lately were billed as such and didn’t live up to our expectations. They are mass-produced, look fancy in the posters and don’t taste quite the way you’ve been led to believe they will.

Quite simply, this production of West Side Story did nothing for me. It left me cold. I was prepared to take out the kleenex and do my usual stiletto run to the ladies after the heart-wrenching conclusion, to check my makeup, before moving on to Drinks and Debrief (this time at our good friend Mia’s new groovy joint, The Junk Bar. You MUST check it out and tell her we sent you)! But I didn’t shed a tear. Some would say that is because I am a cold, callous, over-critical chick with a black heart. I say it’s because the combined elements of this production failed to move me.

Seriously, I had such high hopes and they were all dashed, not least of all because we missed seeing Rohan Browne as Riff. Clearly, we made it into town before he did and unfortunately, for us and now for his understudy, we saw his understudy, with his Australian accent and all (friends who saw Rohan said he was the absolute highlight of the show). I’m happy to give the understudy another go, in another show; perhaps it was a poor casting choice. But in a professional production, your understudies should be up to the task at hand.

The same can be said of every performer in the show.

Let’s not pick on the young, vibrant, mainly-appropriately-dance-trained, largely-recently-graduated ensemble; they too were told they up to the task. But dancers unable to hold their poses (and in bare feet, girls?! Shame! There are no excuses for wobbles at this level! Who decided to have them dance without shoes and stockings in the first place? It’s part of the sex appeal. It’s a little thing but it matters.) Dance pairs who didn’t have that wild, sexy chemistry whilst dancing at the gym? Ensemble members whose looks totes threw the older couple sitting next to me: “Aren’t they meant to be Puerto Rican?” etc. Mind you, these here are crazy times, when you don’t have to cast a single Asian-looking performer to be able to put on Miss Saigon. And if you’re still wondering what all the fuss is about, think back to when Miss Saigon almost didn’t make Broadway.

As I write this, another rave review has gone up online and I wonder again DID I SEE THE SAME SHOW?

To summarise and to partly respond IMHO, to a couple of points made by Katherine Lyall-Watson and Pepa Wolfe:

  • West Side Story was not a fantastic night at the theatre, nor a winner in any way, except perhaps to appeal to a new audience who have never seen any other theatrical production. Wow. I can’t believe I just typed that. That is too kind. And it is ludicrous. Is this the standard of professional production with which we want to seduce new audiences? The cast announcement coincided with the Australia Council survey ”More Bums on Seats: Australian Participation in the Arts”, which found that musical theatre/cabaret was second in popularity to pop and rock concerts. It says that young people aged between 15 and 24 were engaging with the arts, as participants and spectators, more than any other age group. Scary…the power of well-promoted and supported-from-the-inside mediocrity. Isn’t it?
  • I have no doubt that Rohan Browne stole the show. I also loved Alinta Chidzey as Anita, though poor Bernardo was no match for her and I didn’t buy into his leadership of The Sharks. I’m glad my mum will not get to this production, being between India to see my brother and Adelaide to see Leonard Cohen.
  • The costumes looked as if they had come straight out of the packets and off the hangers and onto the performers. Seriously. Did you ever see such clean, brawling teens?
  • The set was laughable, like an enormous barricade that was designed to be re-used next time as a dolls house. Or something. I thought, if only they had stuck to steel and scaffolding, this enormous, over-bearing structure might have been the star of the show. It looked misplaced and the performers were lost within it. Literally. The girls placed strategically throughout it for the quartet of Tonight looked messy.
  • The real winners and stars of this production were Vanessa Scammell and her musicians. They were superb. As they should have been. Thank you.
  • I KNOW ONLY THE GIRLS ORIGINALLY SANG AMERICA. This sucked. This is a big production number and was made famous in the film because the boys were such a gorgeous, cheeky, strong part of it, reaffirming the importance at the time of the gender roles, the real racial tension and reigniting that sexual spark between guys and girls, which is really, I mean, c’mon, what’s at the core of this little, universal Romeo and Juliet plot. Just having the girls perform this number always dilutes it. Compare:


If you’ve seen this production, or you’re a part of it, I’d love to hear from you. Feel free to comment below and tell me what you thought. What did you think of The Ten Tenors’  Josh Piterman as Tony? What did you think of the rumble? The end of the show? You may completely disagree with me on every count and I’d love to hear why! If this is the type of theatre you love and want more of, let me know. I won’t be making it – not like this – but I’ll keep going to see it and questioning the motives of those who do!