By Genevieve Meegan
A new musical theatre course recently announced by the University of Adelaide is attracting great interest not just locally, but from interstate and international students.
The new Bachelor of Music Theatre kicks off in 2019 at the University’s Elder Conservatorium and will be run by renowned music theatre expert and educator George Torbay.
He says the benefits of such a course are not just that aspiring musical theatre stars no longer need to study interstate, but there will also be flow on effects for the South Australian arts scene more broadly.
“The whole point of a course like this here is to add to the cultural scene in this state,” George says. “However, more than just keeping young artists here, the course is already attracting applicants from all over Australia and even international applicants.
“SA has been crying out for a degree like this. Music theatre is a rapidly growing art form and incredibly popular across Australia.”
The course will include singing lessons and song coaching, classes in acting, voice and speech, song repertoire and audition technique, ballet, pas de deux, tap and jazz. Students will also have the opportunity to connect with current writers and explore new works as well as gain professional-level experience working within Adelaide’s thriving festival scene.
Musical theatre star Zoe Komazec, who grew up in Adelaide and is currently starring in the hit production Mamma Mia! The Musical which begun this week, is particularly excited about the announcement as she and fiancé Matt Geronimi will be teaching dance as part of the new course.
“When I was contacted about the course I thought it was one of the most exciting things to happen,” says Zoe, who has been based in Sydney for the past five years but is now living in SA.
“Adelaide has produced so many incredibly talented people in various industries, particularly musical theatre. You’d be surprised how many times I mention I am from Adelaide and at least five people are also born and bred Radelaidians.
“Not having to leave this wonderful state straight away is such a bonus, I think it will allow more aspiring young South Aussies an avenue that they thought wasn’t an option.”
Zoe began dancing at age two at her mum’s studio Barbara Jayne Dance Centre in Norwood, seeing her first musical at age eight – The Sound of Music.
Annie Chiswell is another local musical theatre performer who trained here, at the Adelaide College of the Arts. She too is starring in Mamma Mia! The Musical, which will be her first major production appearance in front of a hometown crowd.
She agrees Adelaide is a breeding ground for great musical theatre talent, although she says time spent interstate can be of benefit.
“For me personally, I believe in any career it is important to take risks and break out of your comfort zone,” says Annie, who saw her first musical The Lion King, in Melbourne at age 10.
“I felt for my career that Melbourne was calling my name, but this doesn’t necessarily have to be the case. I know Adelaide is up and coming in musical theatre training and so hopefully there will be more opportunities to study here.
“I’m also a huge believer in it’s not where you study, but how. I will always be thankful for the artist foundation that SA gave me, and cannot wait to come home and perform.”
Phillip Lowe is yet another Mamma Mia! The Musical star who grew up in SA.
Phillip, who plays Harry Bright in the hit Abba musical, grew up in Jamestown and had no idea as a kid that people were paid to perform as a job.
His mother was the piano player for the local production of Pirates of Penzance when Phillip was four years old and he remembers turning the pages for her and singing along as she practiced.
It wasn’t until his brother went to study at WA Academy of Performing Arts (WAPPA) that Phillip realised musical theatre was an actual career path.
However, he didn’t follow his dreams into musical theatrical when he finished school – first, he got a job at a bank and dabbled in amateur theatre.
“I thought I had to have a ‘real’ job. However, one day we got held up by two guys with shotguns so I decided that I was done with real jobs and I auditioned for drama school. I never looked back after that,” says Phillip, who also went on to study at WAPPA and has maintained a stellar career over the past 25 years, appearing in Crazy for You, The Producers, Dusty, Mary Poppins and many more.
Phillip has been based in Sydney for the past 23 years and Mamma Mia! The Musical will be his first time on the Adelaide Festival Theatre stage.
“I cannot wait. It’s a lifelong dream come true,” he adds.
Mama Mia! The Musical is on at the Adelaide Festival Centre until November 18. Click here for tickets.
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