STAGES with Peter Eyers
Summary: STAGES is the podcast that accesses a variety of people whose professional life is about connecting with an audience. A host of creative artists and practitioners reflect on their career, their process and what matters – to them. Some have made the arts a lifetime pursuit, some explain how their career became a happy accident … but all describe the challenges and demands – and ultimately celebrate why there’s no business like show business! STAGES talks to talent from front of house and backstage - directors, designers, drag artists and doormen … performers, producers and publicists ... teachers, technicians and talent! Whatever stages it takes to engage and affect an audience – or whatever it takes to carve out a career in the arts – we’ll examine it in STAGES. STAGES is the recipient of the Best New Podcaster Award at The Australian Podcast Awards in 2019.
Benjamin Northey is the Chief Conductor of the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra and the Principal Conductor in Residence of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. He has previously held the posts of Associate Conductor of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Resident Guest Conductor of the Australian Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra and Principal Guest Conductor of the Melbourne Chamber Orchestra. Born and raised in Ballarat, he embraced music as an expression from an early age. Flute, clarinet and saxophone were instruments of choice. An appetite and enthusiasm for further exploration saw him develop skills in arranging; and pursue piano, trumpet and violin to add to his developing skills set. Northey graduated with performance studies in classical saxophone from the University of Melbourne Conservatorium of Music. He followed this promptly with a Master of Music study in Conducting, from the Victorian College of the Arts, and continued study abroad. With a progressive and diverse approach to repertoire he has collaborated with a broad range of artists and he is adept at a terrific range of musical styles. And Benjamin Northey likes nothing more than to lead an audience through a sensory experience of music. He does it with passion, pride and perfection. Benjamin Northey joined me in a passionate discussion that considers the musician's process; and ponders the present performance pause and absence of an audience.
Perth seems 'a million miles away' from New York City, but it frames the journey of Carmel Dean; a musical practitioner of intellectual and creative power. She has been applauded extensively in a variety of roles that include Composer, Musical Director, Arranger and Pianist. Early training in classical piano and study at The West Australian Academy of Performing Arts, confirmed an ambition harboured by Carmel. She wanted to create, write and perform music, chiefly in the genre of musical theatre. In 2001 she was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to study in the United States and subsequently graduated from NYU's Graduate Musical Theatre Writing program. A dynamic approach to her work and an easy charm saw her triumph in a succession of creative tasks; transcribing, teaching and accompaniment, building collaborative relationships and demonstrating solid instincts. These experiences soon lead to roles in Musical Direction. As Musical Director, she has guided the Broadway productions of If/Then, Hands on a Hardbody, American Idiot and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. Off-Broadway credits include Everyday Rapture, Vanities and Elegies - A Song Cycle by William Finn. As Composer, Carmel's first musical, Renascence, was produced Off-Broadway and was named Best New Musical at the 2018 Off-Broadway Alliance Awards. A song-cycle titled Well Behaved Women had its premiere performance in New York at Joe's Pub in January, 2020. Carmel Dean is a remarkable musician and an inspiring woman. She is incredibly eloquent. We connected with Carmel remotely, to traverse her extraordinary career thus far, and obtain a fascinating insight into the construction of a Musical narrative.
Barry Creyton continues to provide fascinating insight and reflection of an extensive career, in this companion episode of the Stages podcast. He examines the craft of writing in regard to the many forms in which he has written - fiction, comedy and farce, film, theatre, revue and radio drama. A period working in London allowed him opportunities as a broadcaster with the BBC World Service and theatre gigs that included productions of David Williamson's Don's Party at The Royal Court and a national tour of Ronald Millar's Abelard and Heloise; a play that restored his confidence as an actor. Recent activity has seem him work with LA Theatreworks and Blackstone Audio adapting and sometimes performing, in a series of audio productions of classic texts. He continues to write and develop screenplays and remains a picture of health (there's a picture in an attic somewhere) through a committed discipline of gym. Creyton serves the roles of actor, director, and writer with tremendous ease, extensive knowledge and immense charm. To be in his company is a joy to be treasured. He is generous, warm, witty and ready with a mountain of anecdotes that delight, inform and endlessly entertain.
Barry Creyton could quite easily be labelled a 'Renaissance man'. He is indeed a consummate man of the theatre - accomplished in many roles. He is also a pioneer of revue and satirical comedy in Australia as one of the writer/performers of the iconic television series; The Mavis Bramston Show. His career has taken him around the world, working in a variety of guises in Australia, the United Kingdom and the U.S.A. He has written screenplays, novels and countless theatre fare; revues, plays and adaptations. Following a motorcycle accident he spent time recovering in hospital and writing a play that would prove to be a triumph with an extensive tour that paired Creyton with his great friend and comic contemporary Noeline Brown. The play, Double Act is still performed today and has been given productions in a host of international cities. Creyton and Brown were among the first to release comic records in Australia. The Front and Back (Flip) Side of Barry Creyton and Noeline Brown and The Not So Wet and Dry Side of Barry Creyton and Noeline Brown, demonstrated a seductive sophistication and stark observation of the culture; and relationships between the sexes. In Australia he is also recognised as the urbane panellist from the subversive gameshow Blankety Blanks, the genius stage director of the musical comedy Nunsense or the hysterical farceur in the riotous Noises Off. A vast repertoire of villains, sophisticates and clowns contributes to audiences' adoration of Creyton in stage and screen roles. Creyton serves the roles of Actor, Director, and Writer with tremendous ease, extensive knowledge and immense charm. To be in his company is a joy to be treasured. He is generous, warm, witty and ready with a mountain of anecdotes that delight, inform and endlessly entertain.
In a career that has never disappointed and regularly surprised, Di Rolle has experienced it all. She has been mistaken for Mrs Michael Jackson and she has worked in the golden years of television variety with the Steve Vizard, and Don Lane, Tonight shows. She's mixed with rock stars, movie stars and royalty. Her contact book could be used as a platform to reach the top shelf - she knows everybody! Commencing her career in nursing, she soon moved to roles in the media, working in many facets of television and radio; ultimately crafting a dynamic and hugely successful career in promotion and publicity; specialising in entertainment. Stints with Roadshow Film Distributors, the Nine Network and the Paul Dainty Corporation provided her with terrific skills in diplomacy and connection, ultimately leading to the establishment of her own consultancy firm, Di Rolle Publicity. Di has handled tours and media relations for a vast parade of personnel that include, Willie Nelson, Ruby Wax, Elton John, Jerry Seinfeld, Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger and Tara Moss. Also music festivals, orchestras and dance companies. She is diplomatic, delightful and reliable in delivering the best communication between client and audience. She keenly defines the role of the Publicist. It was a treat to catch up with Di and discuss her extensive career and to seek a few fascinating anecdotes.
Lisa McCune first performed on stage at the age of 15 playing Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. She is synonymous with the character of 'Maggie Doyle' in the popular television drama , Blue Heelers. The role rewarded her with a swag of awards, including four Gold Logies as the most popular personality on Australian TV. McCune is not an actor to be defined by one role however, and has continued to amass a vast repertoire of performances on television and in plays and musical theatre. She trained at the West Australian Academy of Performing Arts, demonstrating a resilience and ambition, as one of the youngest students to be accepted into the course. Her immense charm and engaging persona have made her the perfect casting in a succession of Rodgers and Hammerstein roles, where she has delighted audiences as Maria in The Sound of Music, Nellie Forebush in South Pacific and Anna Leonowens in The King and I. Her range is vast and she has given a terrific assortment of performances; Nunsense, Guys & Dolls, The Potato Factory, Sea Patrol, 33 Variations, Little Fish, Cabaret, Urinetown and How To Stay Married to list but a few. Adept at musical theatre, comedy and drama she is immediately likeable and accomplished in her navigation of character and story. Lisa was giving her 'Gertrude' in Hamlet with The Bell Shakespeare Company when the pandemic forced the closure of many theatres; effectively forcing the valuable work of the Arts sector to an abrupt stop. It was indeed a pleasure to converse with Lisa (from afar) and contemplate her career, craft and COVID-19.
Born in London and spending formative years in Kenya, Diana Simmonds has had a life-long love affair with words. Words spoken and on the page, as a writer, playwright, editor and critic. She has been cited as the most reliable and discerning theatre critic in Sydney. Her online blog stagenoise.com has amassed a large and loyal following of readers; punters and practitioners. She is immensely knowledgable and entertaining with her observations and appreciation of many art forms. Hers is an essential voice in Sydney's cultural life. In London she wrote for various publications including Time Out and City Limits. Upon arrival in Sydney in 1985, she wrote for the Sydney Morning Herald, The Bulletin, The Australian and The Sunday Telegraph, where she was the arts editor. Her nurturing of a thriving theatre scene lead her to be a founding critic and adjudicator of the Sydney Theatre Awards; an annual celebration that has earned respect and legitimacy. She has published a number of novels and non-fiction books, including one on Princess Diana and another on Doris Day. She's also had two stage shows produced. Diana Simmonds joined Stages to reflect on the responsibility of the reviewer, the power of the arts and the essential need for us to tell and consume stories.
You may have caught Mark Humphries as the imposing presence delivering satire on the 7:30 Report. He serves it with boundless charm and an engaging twinkle of the eye. You might also have found him as the amiable and accomplished host on the local version of the UK quiz success, Pointless. The television platform seems the likely home for Humphries who grew up with an appetite for television variety and who is the son of a former ABC weatherman. Early forays into a television studio ignited an ambition to entertain and amuse. Humphries also hosts a passion for musical theatre. He was recently triumphant in the series of Celebrity Mastermind where his special subject, was The Musicals of Stephen Sondheim. His charm and personality are reminiscent of the television Gods of yesteryear, but with an essential contemporary edge. He is equipped with a smile as broad as a bridge, a mischievous glint that hints at naughty and a masterful way with words - indelible assets for satirical comedy and television variety. He spoke with Stages examining the challenge of writing and delivering comedy in present times, quiz shows and of course, the magic of the musical.
Brian Castles-Onion is one of Australia's most beloved and exciting opera conductors. His impish charm and infinite knowledge of the operatic repertoire, historical perspectives and vocal technique make him an engaging authority on our rich operatic past. It is no surprise then, to learn that his lifetime of collecting recordings of vocal artists, now sees him as a passionate preservationist for some of Australia's supreme singers. Brian is the producer of the acclaimed CD series which celebrates our operatic pioneers: Great Australian Voices. The collection is released through Desiree Records. There have been ten volumes produced, each serving delicious excerpts from the careers of singers that include Bob Allman, Nance Grant, Maureen Howard, June Bronhill, Marie Collier, Bob Simmons and Geraldine Turner. The recordings are a treat and offer the listener the opportunity to hear how our musical ancestors sounded; what they sang, how they sang, who they sang with and what they thought about their roles. An insightful historical and pictorial booklet accompanies each volume with much fascinating detail to devour. Brian joined Stages to generously share knowledge of these great singers and the artistic legacy they leave.
David Spicer's enthusiasm for the arts in all its forms is palpable. His participation exists in several identities; producer, publisher, performer and patron. He is a regular at the theatre and relishes nurturing new work. It's a broad portfolio. Spicer is a journalist and worked for the A.B.C. in metropolitan radio and television, delivering news and current affairs. He was acknowledged with the Walkley Award two years running, for Best Radio Current Affairs Story. Equally at home on the stage, he has performed most of the lead tenor repertoire in the Gilbert and Sullivan cannon; in concerts and production. In 2008, he acquired management of Stage Whispers Performing Arts Magazine; an essential guide for the theatre goer and participant, delivering news, reviews and listings. Since 1995, Spicer has been the Communications Officer for The Association of Community Theatre. In this capacity he helped found the ACT's What's On brochure and a bi-annual community theatre conference. He began his foray into representing stage plays and musicals in 1998, when David Spicer Productions licensed 2 musicals. The company now licences more than 200 productions in countries all over the world. David joined Stages to examine his many roles and the vital need for an Arts experience in society - especially in the present, challenging times.
Prior to arriving in Australia, Richard Carroll had only tentatively contemplated a career in the theatre. His showbiz participation had consisted of school productions and writing questions for Quiz programs in the UK. Casting and production experiences in television followed, providing him with essential skills to navigate the creative roles of writer, producer and director. Carroll is one of Australia's leading proponents of the Musical and is a founding member of The Hayes Theatre Company in Sydney; an organisation dedicated to the celebration and preservation of the musical and cabaret forms. His impressive list of credits as Producer or Writer include Everybody Loves Lucy, Julie Madly Deeply, Darlinghurst Nights, High Society and Sweet Charity - the production that alerted the industry that something special was happening at The Hayes. As a Director, his highly successful production of Calamity Jane, starring Virginia Gay, played throughout Australia, delighting audiences with a new look at an old favourite. Other shows seeing Carroll at the helm include Spamalot, Gypsy, An Act of God, Once and Sideshow; an array of product exploring classical Broadway fare and contemporary works. In November he directs the iconic Oklahoma for The Black Swan Theatre Company in Perth. You can also find Richard in a back catalogue of episodes for his podcasts: At The Hayes and Every Musical Ever. Today, you'll find him on Stages, reflecting on his journey to Australia and the theatrical delights he has discovered and made significant contribution.
Oscar Wilde once said, "There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about." Though he was advising 'Dorian Gray', Wilde could quite easily have been instructing the pursuit of the Publicist. An essential tool in the promotion and marketing of events and entertainment is the publicity machine; making us aware, engaged and informed. For over 30 years, Ian Phipps has worked in a variety of capacities communicating a product. He has served stints as Publicity Manager at SBS Television, Marketing Manager of Riverside Theatres Parramatta, Publicity and Promotions Manager of the Australian Film, Television and Radio School; and since 2009 navigation of his own promotions and publicity house, IP Publicity. It is a role demanding enormous energy, strategy and an awareness of all platforms and how they might best service the client. Large scale productions and high profile artists benefit from Ian's management of media communications, and creative flair, in guiding the public awareness. Publicity and Promotions are another intriguing facet of our Arts industry. Ian provides great insight to his process and shares some delightful tales from his extensive experience as a Publicist working with creatives, media and the audience.
Simon Burke dislikes waiting in the wings. His immense passion and energy would see him ideally leave the dressing room to arrive directly on stage and into the job of story-telling. It is a routine that can easily be applied to Simon off the stage. He moves with great enthusiasm towards each project and is eager to craft his own projects too; or provide support to colleagues and industry in advocacy roles. A vast array of performances in musical theatre have given us his Marius in the original Australian company of Les Miserables, Billy Flynn in Chicago and Billy Crocker in Anything Goes. Acclaim abroad has seen Burke feature regularly in The West End in productions of La Cage Aux Folles, A Little Night Music, The Phantom of the Opera; and The Sound of Music at The London Palladium. His passion for the Arts has also seen him attend to the role of National President of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance; a role he served for 10 years working for better conditions and consideration of fellow artists. It continues to be a rewarding and busy time on stage and off for Simon Burke. He has traversed many stages and shares fascinating insight and reflection on a career that has seen him journey from talented child actor to an accomplished and regarded actor, and personality, in theatre and on screen. The Stages podcast is available from iTunes, Spotify and Whooshkaa.
Simon Burke was recently cast as Hugo, the drag mentor to the title character in the musical Everybody's Talking About Jaimie. He has entered an age bracket that finds him playing a succession of paternal roles in The Sound of Music, Catch Me If You Can, La Cage Aux Folles and Tommy Murphy's Strangers in Between. And for two decades he worked alongside a couple of the most famous bears in the business; Teds, Big and Little. Oh my! All of these are just some of the highlights of a career that continues to be varied and stellar. At the age of 13, Simon Burke landed the role of Tom Allen in Fred Schepsi's acclaimed feature film The Devil's Playground. His performance would reward him with the AFI award for Best Actor and the accolade of being the youngest recipient honoured with the award. He would return to The Devil's Playground 38 years later, reprising the role of Tom and serving the project as co-creator and executive producer. This television series would receive AACTA and Logie Awards. Identifying the moment he walked into an empty theatre and ventured onto the stage - he immediately recognised that this is where he wanted to be. Burke has been in regular work since his early debut. He completed an apprenticeship 'on-the-job' with most of the country's leading actors; early gigs had him working alongside Peter Carroll, Robyn Nevin and Maggie Dence. He has performed across all platforms; theatre, television, film, cabaret, musical theatre and a host of the iconic Playschool. A vast array of roles in musical theatre have given us his Marius in the original Australian company of Les Miserables, Billy Flynn in Chicago and Billy Crocker in Anything Goes. Acclaim abroad has seen Burke feature regularly in The West End in productions of La Cage Aux Folles, A Little Night Music, The Phantom of the Opera; and The Sound of Music at The London Palladium. Life in the theatre has also seen him attend to the role of National President of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance; a role he served for 10 years working for better conditions and consideration of fellow artists. He was made an Officer of the Order of Australia in 2015 for distinguished service to the performing arts as an actor, singer and producer, and through senior advocacy roles for performer's rights and access to development and education programs. It continues to be a rewarding and busy time on stage and off for Simon Burke. We discussed the many stages he has traversed - and a lot more - in this reflective episode of Stages.
Michael Falzon is the real deal. He is charm personified and comes with an engaging sense of humour and an infinite industry wisdom born of extensive time as a performer and producer, in the business we call show. Upon any meeting with Falzon I best describe him as possessed of a gentle bonhomie. He is humble and modest but at the same time can be direct, frank and insightful. His early career saw him singing professionally in Brisbane with Vocal Point, an 8-part group specialising in close harmony. So too began his extensive travel nationally and internationally. Early work on the stage provided him with an opportunity to explore classical musical theatre styles and operetta in a succession of shows that included The Pirates of Penzance (with Jon English), HMS Pinafore, Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (with David Dixon) and Hello, Dolly! (with Jill Perryman). These experiences would lay valuable foundations that would see him develop terrific versatility as a stage performer, and vocal skill that would extend to rock and popular repertoire. In 2003 he was rewarded with his break-through role in We Will Rock You. Selected by creators Ben Elton and Queen's Roger Taylor and Brian May, his performance as 'Galileo Figaro' earned great acclaim. After a tour nationally, Falzon played the show in Japan and throughout the United Kingdom. We Will Rock You offered him a chance to play huge stadiums in arena performances. This was an experience also provided by his performance as 'the Artilleryman' in Jeff Wayne's musical version of The War of The Worlds. Falzon's extensive on stage work has included Hedwig and The Angry Inch, Ordinary Days, Floyd Collins, Jesus Christ Superstar, Rock of Ages, Chess and an opportunity to craft the role of 'Leo Szilard' in the Australian/USA co-production of Atomic, and early work on the developing rock opera Get Jack. I know you'll enjoy this conversation as much as I enjoyed recording this conversation, with the bouyant Michael Falzon.