What do David Harris, Lucy Maunder, Amanda Harrison, Julie Goodwin and Trevor Ashley have in common? They were all featured artists in Schools Spectacular.
Schools Spectacular showcases the best performing arts talent from NSW Public School students. It boasts a prestigious alumni of musical theatre talent who all went on to be distinguished professional performers.
In its 31st year, on 28 and 29 November, 3,600 students from 400 public schools will perform at the Qantas Credit Union Arena, broadcast live on Channel 9. From that group, 33 singers have been chosen as featured artists, within which there is a strong cohort of rising musical theatre talent.
Maryann Wright sat down with five of the musical students to ask them about their aspirations and love of musical theatre: Liam Faulkner Dimond (13), Kelsi Boyden (18), Jessica Rookeward (17), Bella Thomas (11), and Harmony Lovegrove (14).
What has been the highlight of your Musical Theatre career so far?
Liam: Pugsley in The Addams Family last year at The Capitol Theatre.
Kelsi: Debbie in the original Australian production of Billy Elliot.
Jessica: Tracy in Packemin Productions’ Hairspray.
Bella: Annie in Annie at Miranda Musical Society.
Harmony: Can’t wait to play The Narrator in Packemin Production’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat.
Do you want to go to a performing arts university/college? Where?
Liam: I don’t think that far into the future. I just want to finish school.
Kelsi: I have auditions lined up for WAAPA, VCA and NIDA this year.
Jessica: WAAPA. I can audition in one more year.
Bella: Newtown High School of the Performing Arts for high school.
Harmony: I’d love to get into WAAPA.
What’s your ultimate career ambition?
Liam: Having fun, entertaining people, being well known. I don’t care where in the world I do it.
Kelsi: To have people think of my name for a role and to be constantly working.
Jessica: Playing a lead in a sellout Broadway show.
Bella: I really, really, really want to be in a Broadway show.
Harmony: Performing on Broadway.
Dream role in a musical?
Liam: Corny Collins in Hairspray.
Kelsi: Belle in Beauty and the Beast was number one and I did that this year with Packemin Productions. I’d also love to play Glinda in Wicked, Wednesday in The Addams Family and Natalie in Next to Normal.
Jessica: Bonnie in Bonnie & Clyde, Fiona in Shrek, Eponine in Les Miserables and Rose in Dogfight.
Bella: Glinda in Wicked.
Harmony: Christine in Phantom of the Opera, Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors, Eponine in Les Miserables, Jo in Little Women, Kate Monster in Avenue Q.
How has Schools Spec helped with your journey as a performer?
Liam: To feel more comfortable onstage. Also, learning choreography has helped me loosen up, which helps with comedic performances.
Kelsi: The opportunity to perform in front of large audience helps to learn how to control nerves and entertain to your best ability. School Spec is also good for learning skills like how to work with a microphone, an orchestra and dancers.
Jessica: Learning how to sight read sheet music and being adaptable to new songs.
Bella: It’s good to perform in front of so many people – Spec is the biggest audience I have ever performed to.
Harmony: Vocal technique, how to be a role model to kids, and I am a fairly shy person so it is great to feel part of something bigger than myself.
What got you hooked on musical theatre?
Liam: My friends did musical theatre classes and I joined in and had so much fun.
Kelsi: I grew up in the music industry (my mum is dance teacher) so it is all I have ever known. I started singing and dancing since 2 so it’s all ever wanted to do.
Jessica: When I watched the original movie of Newsies. I realised I could do singing, dancing and acting all together at the same time. Then I saw Les Miserables and I knew I could not do anything else.
Bella: My year 2 teacher encouraged me to audition for musicals and when I got cast as Molly in my first production of Annie I loved it so much.
Harmony: My mum is a crazy musical theatre fan and she played lots of DVDs and soundtracks when I was little. When I was 4 years old she played me Into The Woods and I’ve never looked back!
Do you have any mentors who have helped you get this far?
Liam: Freddie Dobson has helped me since I was 8 where I live on the Central Coast.
Kelsi: I’ve had many mentors in the Talent Development Project over the past 7 years. Sharon Millerchip has been there since day one and has always supported me. Scott Irwin who was my Beast in Beauty and the Beast was also so helpful and knowledgeable.
Jessica: Neil Gooding (producer and director of Packemin Productions) has mentored me and helped me grow as a person and performer.
Bella: Chiz Watson is my acting teacher and I look up to her.
Harmony: My Mum has done so much for my career and is my biggest mentor. Marc Christowski of Empire Touring has also given me gigs at the State Theatre and I’m grateful for his support.
Who is your musical theatre inspiration?
Liam: Freddy Mercury. I want to have his kind of energy.
Kelsi: Sharon Millerchip, Idina Menzel, Kristin Chenoweth, Sutton Foster, Jemma Rix. Anyone who has made it big and who is still such a nice person.
Jessica: Wayne Scott Kermond, Laura Osnes, Sierra Boggess.
Bella: Jemma Rix and Kristin Chenoweth.
Harmony: Ramin Karimloo, Sierra Boggess, Tina Arena, Lucy Durack, Idina Menzel, Bernadette Peters.
What’s the best show you’ve ever seen in Australia?
Liam: I’m really looking forward to Rocky Horror when it comes to Sydney.
Kelsi: Jersey Boys.
Jessica: Hot Shoe Shuffle.
Are you a musical theatre nerd? What’s the nerdiest thing you’ve done?
Liam: Dancing around in my bedroom to “You Can’t Stop the Beat” from Hairspray.
Kelsi: I try to see every show that comes to Sydney. I need my musical theatre fix.
Jessica: People can say so much as a word in normal conversation and I start singing a song from a musical. Every weekend I’m at the theatre.
Bella: I have 900 songs on my iPod and about 700 of those are musical theatre.
Harmony: I was in New York with my Mum and sister and we stood outside Stephen Sondheim’s apartment in the pouring rain just watching him work on his computer, soaking up the vibe – I couldn’t believe it was real!
You can see these rising stars perform at the QANTAS CREDIT UNION ARENA (formerly Sydney Entertainment Centre) on Friday 28 November 12noon & 7.30pm Saturday 29 November at 1pm & 7.30pm. Bookings: www.ticketek.com.au or phone 132 849. www.schoolsspectacular.com.au