Theatrical treats in store

SUBURBAN COMEDY: Tracy Ebbetts, left, as Flick, Phil McKewin as Josh and David Gubbay as Tom, rehearsing the play Daylight Saving. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers
SUBURBAN COMEDY: Tracy Ebbetts, left, as Flick, Phil McKewin as Josh and David Gubbay as Tom, rehearsing the play Daylight Saving. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

THE Phantom of the Opera will be haunting the Civic Theatre next year, with Newcastle company Metropolitan Players winning the rights for the first non-professional staging in NSW of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical.

The Civic season is from August 28 to September 7, with the first Sydney non-professional production, by Miranda Musical Society, opening on September 18.

Newcastle’s success in beating Sydney for such a prized show is a further reflection of this city’s growing strength as a theatrical centre.

The plays and musicals programmed for 2013 include something for everyone, from classic works by Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde, Noel Coward and Tennessee Williams, to crowd-pleasers by Agatha Christie and David Williamson, and new plays developed by local writers and actors.

The often-overlooked role of Newcastle and the Hunter in contributing to Australian theatre will be highlighted by the staging of nationally acclaimed plays by writers who grew up in the region.

Newcastle Theatre Company will present in January Daylight Saving, a romantic comedy by Maitland-born Nick Enright that is set in a Sydney suburban house on the weekend that daylight saving ends.

And in March, Theatre on Brunker will stage Secret Bridesmaids’ Business, a comedy by Elizabeth Coleman which looks at startling revelations that surface at a hen’s party the night before a wedding.

Another of Coleman’s hits, It’s My Party (And I’ll Die If I Want To), will come to the Civic Theatre and Cessnock Performing Arts Centre in a touring production in May.

Two of Oscar Wilde’s comedies will receive Hunter productions. The Importance of Being Earnest, in which two young men assume the name Ernest after a young woman declares she will only marry a man with that name, has a Newcastle Theatre Company season in March. Maitland Repertory Theatre will stage An Ideal Husband the following month, a darker comedy that revolves around blackmail and political corruption.

Two Newcastle companies will present very different productions of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Tantrum Theatre will stage the tragedy about youthful romance at an indoor venue at Gloucester in March as the centrepiece of that town’s annual Shakespeare festival. And the Hunter Region Drama School will offer a production that will move around a still-to-be-named site in November.  

Two other youth theatre groups offer different versions of a story that has long been popular with young audiences. Young People’s Theatre will stage co-founder William Ford’s adaptation of L.Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz in April, and Maitland Junior Repertory will present V.G. Koste’s version, entitled The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, in September.

The program of Hamilton’s DAPA Theatre reflects the broadness of the seasons put forward by Newcastle groups.

It begins in February with The Sensuous Senator, an American comedy by Michael Parker that centres on a politician running for US president on a morality platform who tries to set himself up with female companions while his wife is at a conference.

Other works include Agatha Christie’s Go Back for Murder (August) and Tennessee Williams’s A Streetcar Named Desire (October). Locally developed new works that will be staged in Newcastle include an adaptation by Prospero Players’ director Vija Docherty of Michael Ende’s fantasy for young readers, Momo, the story of a child battling time thieves (April); The Past is a Foreign Country, a look by new young-adult group The Paper Cut Collective at memories of things past and the way they can be distorted (April); and Grimm Tales, an adaptation by Amy Hill and Leilani Smith of several macabre and whimsical fairy stories by the Brothers Grimm (Newcastle Theatre Company, December).

New production group, the National Theatre Company, will have the first community theatrical booking of St Philip’s Christian College’s 478-seat theatre at Waratah in February, when it stages the Australian premiere of the re-orchestrated version of the musical Godspell that ended its run on Broadway in June. The show will then have a season at Singleton Arts Centre in March.

The year will have a notable number of musicals not previously staged in the Hunter, including: 13, the story of a teenage boy’s move to a country town (The National Theatre Company, Singleton, April, and Newcastle, May); [title of show], which charts, based on a real story, the development of a new musical (Pantseat Productions, April); the NSW premiere of Next to Normal, a Pulitzer Prize-winning musical about a mother’s bipolar illness (Newcastle Theatre Company, May); and Xanadu, about a Greek muse who comes to earth to help a struggling artist (Pantseat Productions, September).    

The Newcastle Herald’s 2013 Theatre Calendar, published on January 24, will have a comprehensive list of the year’s shows.