In early November the company collaborated with the Whyalla Players in a major regional production ofPhantom—apparently,the biggest production the Players have brought to life onWhyalla’sMiddleback Theatre stage.
Tim Sexton, CEO & Artistic Director of State Opera of South Australia, said it was part of a wider plan for his company, to work more deeply in a regional centre, rather than the ‘fly in, present a show, fly out’ scenario.
‘It builds on the production of Pagliacci by Ruggero Leoncavallo which we presented in 2010 in collaboration with the local community of Moonta in South Australia,’ he said.
‘As part of our Opera at the Mines tour, we held three performances with a 30-piece orchestra, with the principal singers performing on the back of a truck, set in the grounds of the Moonta Mines Museum. Eight SOSA chorus members joined a local chorus who ranged in age from 8–92 year olds. It was huge!’
Phantom was an even more substantial event, with six virtually sold-out performances, exquisite costumes and sets hired from Melbourne, a local orchestra supplemented by six Adelaide musicians supplied by SOSA, and a totally local chorus and cast. All up, SOSA's contribution amounted to $20,000—big biccies for a local show.
Tim Sexton spent three months travelling back and forth from Adelaide, rehearsing the show, and then stayed in Whyalla for the final two weeks rehearsing the show and conducting the performances.
Producer and leading man, Ron Hay, gave up rock singing for 9 months leading up to the production, in his second ever show as producer.
‘It was an immense undertaking for a little regional theatre group—in fact, it’s the first regional company in South Australia to stagePhantom, so it’s quite a feather in their cap.’
Sexton said some great local talent was unmasked, including 17-year-old Imala Konyn from Port Augusta who shared the role of Christine Daaé and did a remarkable job (in between sitting for her Year 12 exams!). Father/daughter team of Warren and Kaitlyn McKenzie also made the Adelaide to Whyalla trek for the 5-month rehearsal and performance period, with Kaitlyn also interrupting her exam time to co-star as Christine.
Regional engagement is firmly on SOSA’s agenda, with three regions to be targeted in coming years—the mining and smelting areas of Whyalla, Port Augusta, Port Pirie and Roxby Downs; the Mt Gambier region; and Mildura and surrounds.
BHP Billiton also assisted with sponsorship of Phantom. As part of that sponsorship, vocal workshops were held in Whyalla, conducted by SOSA on behalf of the Whyalla Players, and Sexton says a further choral workshop will be held in early March 2015 in Roxby Downs.