Unknowns deserve Helpmann gongs

Awards nights can so often be about stars becoming bigger stars.

Awards nights can so often be about stars becoming bigger stars.

If you watch the Oscars, the Emmys or even the Tony Awards, there’s an element of interest based on the celebrities there, rather than the work they are representing.

Last night, the best thing about the Helpmann Awards was the way in which it honoured tremendous talents who have been working hard in the industry for some time, yet are not household names and don’t have photographers chasing them down the street.

I speak largely of awards given out to Christina O’Neill and Luke Joslin for their supporting roles in the hit musical Avenue Q, which developed strong audience interest during its Australian tour.

O’Neill and Joslin have been working strongly in the musical theatre world over a number of years now, but recognition has been limited to audience applause and pats on the back from within the industry.

Both have strong respect within the theatre community for their performing talents.

Last night, their awards may have still been very insular to the industry, but they had immense meaning.

It was great to see Mitchell Butel and Michala Banas win for their roles in Avenue Q, and from the highlights I have seen, Banas’ speech deserves a great applause.

Producers would do well to hang on to Banas, whose star power is more about her talent than her instant recognition. She is a bankable, future star of the industry.

It was good to see some mainstream media coverage this morning from various newspapers and television stations, and most of them managed to avoid using the obvious celebrity faces.

For the first time in six years, I missed the Helpmanns last night so cannot comment on the presentation, and whether it had moved on from some of the problems of the past.

I noted that producer Jon Nicholls admitted in the Sydney Morning Herald last week that there had been problems with the awards in the past, and that reviews were needed to ensure the long-term success of the concept.

Such an admission is a good one and a review will hopefully leave us with a strong annual awards ceremony that is second to none.

Congratulations to all the winners last night, and may the Helpmanns continue to grow with the support and admiration required.

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