WHEN Australian writer and director Baz Luhrmann made his film Strictly Ballroom in 1992, he didn't realise how globally popular it would be.
The film looks at the career of a young male dancer, Scott Hastings, who upsets an Australian ballroom federation by including other dance styles such as jazz and rock in his routines. But Scott increasingly wows watchers of the routines he is in and has other dancers emulating him.
The film's continuing popularity around the world, via television screenings and DVDs, led Luhrmann to use the story as the basis for a stage musical, as the film had included several songs in its dance routines.
The musical, written by Luhrmann and Craig Pearce and adapted by Terry Johnson, premiered in Sydney in 2014, with a revised version presented in Melbourne the following year. It has been staged in countries including England and Canada, with further adaptations, such as changing the Australian jokes, to suit audiences in those places.
The film's continuing popularity around the world ... led Luhrmann to use the story as the basis for a stage musical.
Strictly Ballroom: The Musical became available for amateur Australian productions this year, and Newcastle's St Philip's Christian College will perform it at the Civic Theatre from June 20-22.
St Philip's won a reputation for the quality of the musicals it stages in its Waratah theatre, and this led it to present a major musical in the Civic Theatre every two years. Its 2017 Civic production, Mary Poppins, won five City of Newcastle Drama Association (CONDA) awards, including Best Musical.
This year's show, which requires many dancers, has a cast of 98 senior students, with 18 in major roles. And hundreds of elegant and glittering costumes, a large number with feathers, have been put together for the dance sequences. The musical also has many very different styles of lighting.
The show's version now presented to Australian audiences is that used in the Melbourne staging, and uses songs that were in the film, among them Time After Time, Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps, Tequila, and Love is in the Air, plus new songs by composers who include Eddie Perfect, Elliott Wheeler and Sia Furler.
The show's director, Robert Stuart, said that the musical taps into Australian humour and also looks at the breaking down of social barriers, with its central character, Scott Hastings, determined to help people to improve their lifestyles. He encourages a dance newcomer, Fran, who finds herself made to do the same thing again and again, to develop different movements.
Jay Scott, who is 15, plays Scott Hastings.
Jay has shown his skills in Newcastle youth theatre plays, with his 2018 characters including the comic villain Jafar in Aladdin Jr and the demanding millionaire Oliver Warbucks in Annie KIDS. He notes that this musical, with its various styles of song and dance numbers, gives all cast members a chance to show their capability.
And Anna Davies, who is Fran, says that as her character has Spanish parents she has had to develop a Spanish nature in her voice and movements, with the song that ends the first act, Magnifico, being very elegant and having a Spanish flavour.
Audience members will have encountered people with the natures of many of the characters.
Scott's mother, for example, has the motto "I've got my happy face on," but she is manipulating and bullying. And his father is nervous, socially inept, and keeps his mouth shut for most of the time.
The musical's staging team, including Robert Stuart, producer Michael Cooper, musical director Lindy Connett, choreographers Natalie Baker and Eva-Marie Irwin, and costumes and make-up head Dianna Garred, have won many CONDA nominations and trophies.
Strictly Ballroom: The Musical has shows on Thursday and Friday, June 20 and 21, at 10.30am and 7pm, and on Saturday, June 22, at 2pm and 7pm. Tickets: $30, concession, student, junior $19. Bookings: 4929 1977.
Wait Until Dark
Theatre on Brunker, at St Stephen's Church Hall, Adamstown. Ends June 29.
ENGLISH playwright Frederick Knott was renowned for his dark thrillers and, as the title suggests, this one certainly has that nature, with a woman who was blinded in a car accident having to deal with three conmen searching for a doll filled with heroin, given to her husband to mind by a female passenger after they landed at London's airport, with him unaware of what the toy contained. The play is set in the kitchen of the couple's basement apartment (excellently designed by Chris Bird), and Carrie Manen, who won a CONDA when she played the blind Susy in an American version of the play in 2009, again makes the blind woman a gripping figure when she is confronted the men in search of the doll. As she is getting used to being in darkness, she is often more adept than the crooks when they put the lights out and the capabilities she has developed are shown in moments when she has to avoid them and hides things. The actions of the different natured conmen could have been better on opening night, but the three actors - Carl Gregory, Patrick Campbell and Derek Fisher - will develop their characters.
The actors with briefer roles - Colin Campbell as Susy's husband, Tallulah Rennie as a young girl who has taken the doll, and director Brian Wark as a policeman - add to the colour of the figures.