Oh what a night!

Firstly, thanks for all the wonderful feedback about last week’s column and huge Chookas to all the ‘Marys’ that are auditioning this week.

Caleb RixonFirstly, thanks for all the wonderful feedback about last week’s column and huge Chookas to all the ‘Marys’ that are auditioning this week.

Well, Monday night this week saw Melbourne’s Chapel off Chapel literally packed to the rafters. Not a seat to be had. (Haven’t seen that in a while at that venue). It was for a fund-raiser. A fund-raiser for a young man who has spent too much time on life support for someone of his years. A young man who was about to share the stage in the recent production of Chicago. A young man who dazzled us in Altar Boyz. A young man whose family and partner have become ever known now as ‘Team Rixon’.

Entitled ‘A Second Chance’, the evening was one of the most heartening shows of Music Theatre solidarity, support and love that I have seen in years. In many ways, it was a healing for all that were there.

I know the tragedy that was the pre-cursor this event has been reported here on Aussie Theatre, but in case you missed it…

Caleb John Rixon, a Geelong boy, studied at the Ballarat Academy of Performing Arts for 2 years and then started all over again at WAAPA for a further 3 years Musical Theatre training. He graduated from the latter and walked into his cover role in the short-lived, Altar Boyz. On the night we had the ‘boyz’ into B@B, Caleb was actually there in his cover capacity. I also had the chance to see him onstage in the show.

He had only just been cast in Chicago, when forces beyond his control subjected this gorgeous young man to his most difficult role. The ‘Who Am I?’ that follows a Grade 5 Subarachnoid Haemhorrage (Stroke) due to a Dural Arteriovenous Malformation. It was hours after his 24th birthday.

During the course of the evening, we learned of the horrors that Caleb went through and his gradual reclaiming of his right to breath unassisted, the right to swallow, the right to walk and to talk. His right to remember. When we had him on Broadway at Bedtime to talk about the event, he spoke of reclaiming his memory. A few pieces of well-chosen data would re-ignite a dormant part of a scrapbook of a memory and somehow the pages would become unstuck and reveal a whole section of Caleb’s life that may have been locked, dormant, forever.

As he said, “a work in progress”, his singing, is a most recent re-acquisition. And he did. A video was shown of the journey. Silence and sobs. Silence and sobs. That was all there was. Silence and sobs.

But Neil Gooding, with Caleb, put together a ‘Caleb’ration of Music Theatre excellence.

Chelsea Plumley looked at the jam-packed night ahead of her and MC’d it with humour at a cracking pace. James Millar sang the title song of the evening, written especially for the event. Gareth Keegan showed how moved he was by the entire scenario with ‘For Once In My Life’. Matt Hetherington gave new tenure to the lyrics of ‘Home’ from The Wiz. Altar Boyz cast mate, Cameron MacDonald joined with Suzie Mathers  to hear the drums ‘Fernando’. Almost all the girls of Virgins  got together to ‘Connect’. Christie Whelan – God I love that girl – gave us a snippet of her comic command with ‘Lucky’ from Tegrity. 3 of the Jersey Boys sang ‘Not Perfect’, perfectly. Caleb’s graduating year did a moving ‘Over The Rainbow’ – Caleb’s absence from the line-up was crushing. Eddie Perfect was.  2 of 3 Feet of Beat blew us away with an explosive tap routine. And Alex Rathgeber sang an original work by Bryant & Frank, ‘How Am I Me?’.

Out to a foyer full of dazed faces.

Members of the cast of Cats took William Finn’s ‘I Feel So Much Spring’ and we did. The inimitable, Chelsea Plumley took us on a journey with ‘Song For My Friends’. It just kept rolling out, Gemma-Ashley Kaplan, Tyran Parke, Kate Hanley. Rhonda Burchmore showed that nothing beats stage hours with her ‘I Am What I Am’.

And then the tissues… Brent Dolahenty sang ‘I’m Yours’ for his man, Caleb.

And then bloody Caleb had to go and sing, didn’t he?

Truly – “It’s good isn’t it, great isn’t it, swell isn’t it, fun isn’t it? Nowadays.”

Well it was ALL of those things for the entire crowd assembled there at the Chapel. All of us new members of ‘Team Rixon’. It made you very proud of this industry of ours.

May we continue to treat this industry just like that.

You can always send your topic suggestions through to me at: [email protected]

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