OCPAC’s highly successful 2013 production of Seussical The Musical returns to the stage this April for the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. First time director Josh Ellwood tells Bethany Simons what it’s been like juggling his own performance schedule with demands from the cat in the stripy hat.
A music theatre performer in his own right, Melbourne based Josh Ellwood took the plunge and agreed to direct his first show for his mates at Old Carey Performing Arts Club (OCPAC) in 2013. The production was Seussical The Musical, a musical adaptation of the most famous and popular of the Dr Seuss books.
Now in its fifth year, OCPAC was founded by a group of friends who wanted to continue creating and performing in quality productions after they had finished school. The community has since grown to over one hundred made up of both Carey alumni and members of the wider community.
A non-Carey graduate himself, Ellwood is happy to be back in the director’s chair for the remount. “Last year we had an amazing audience reception, a few nominations, and a couple of wins. It was a really successful little production. I’ve been involved since casting in May last year, so I’m coming up to the one year anniversary of my involvement.”
A remount should be pretty straight forward, right? In theory it could be, if you were just working on the one production. “I’ve been juggling this with Blood Brothers. It was pretty huge doing three evening rehearsals a week for [Seussical] on top of Blood Brothers rehearsals from 9 – 5pm.”
Originally from Melbourne, Ellwood trained for three years at the Ballarat Arts Academy. Does he feel that directing has informed his work as a performer? “It’s informed my abilities both ways. Being a performer has given me an insight into what the cast needs of me, and being a director has really refined my process as a performer.”
Though he’s seen it over and over again Ellwood admits that the show gets him every time saying, “The way it throws home these morals and lessons that we forget as adults – it’s hard not to be affected. There are morals, but there is an over-arching sense of humour to them. The writers have done a great job.”
Seussical will enjoy a number of day time slots for the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, but Ellwood insists that, like all good children’s shows, it does appeal to all ages. “It’s for young kids – who will laugh at the things that young kids laugh at – right up to the cynical adults who will get a kick out of the more contemporary references we have put in there. There’s a lot in it for adults and there is no assumed knowledge.”
After missing the odd rehearsal due to his Blood Brothers performance commitments, Ellwood is keen to make up time where he can. When we spoke he was taking a few minutes out from the heavy lifting required for bumping-in Seussical. He plans to throw himself into the Comedy Festival season before taking a well-earned rest, saying, “Once [Seussical] closes, I think what’s next for me could be a sleep in. That’ll be the first one in a few months!”
But, with a couple of other ‘hush-hush things’ on the horizon, both from the directorial and performing stand point, it doesn’t sound like Ellwood will be snoozing for very long.
Seussical: The Musical
The Athenaeum Theatre
7 April to 21 April (10 shows only)
For bookings and info visit www.ocpac.com.au