TOP NIGHT: Alison Hodge, Georgia Hicks Jones, and Marissa Saroca perform a Priscilla, Queen of the Desert medley at the 2016 CONDA Awards.THE annual City of Newcastle Drama Awards night is not just an occasion for honouring theatre works.
It gives company members and theatregoers the chance to enjoy the ever-expanding skills of performers and backstage workers in Newcastle and the Lower Hunter.
The 2017 CONDA Awards ceremony, at the Wests New Lambton Starlight Room on Saturday, at 7pm, will feature six very different musical numbers, with 55 performers aged from nine upwards, and including a youth musical number and a big rock song. The awards staging team is keeping song titles and performers’ names secret to surprise the audience.
The awards ceremony hosts are actors Drew Holmes and Elise Martin, with Newcastle-raised musical star Tom Handley as a guest presenter.
Handley auditioned for and won a place in the Western n Academy of Performing Arts music theatre degree course before doing the HSC at Hunter School of the Performing Arts in 2008.
Since graduating in 2011, he has appeared in long-running touring musicals, including Wicked and My Fair Lady, and has just been announced as a member of a new touring production of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.
The night will also include video interview celebrations of the theatre work of retiring entertainers Lesly Stevenson and Val and Bill Hitchcock.
Lesly Stevenson founded the Dance and Performing Arts Academy (DAPA) in 1988, Newcastle’s first training entity to cover all the performing arts. In 2001, she bought the Roxy Theatre in Hamilton, renamed it the DAPA Theatre, and used it for classes and performances.
A two-time CONDA winner, she was president of CONDA Inc, which manages the CONDA Awards, for several years. The DAPA Theatre has been bought by WEA Hunter, which will rename it The Creative Arts Space when it takes over the venue on Friday and will continue to use it for training people and performances.
Val and Bill Hitchcock managed Newcastle’s first and longest running show-and-meal company, Club 71 Dinner Theatre, since 1980, and, now in their 80s, have decided to close it.
Club 71 was established in 1971, with the Hitchcocks joining as performers in 1974. They took over the company when founders Ken Mantle and Madge Ormerod stood down.
The videos were put together by CONDA Inc’s major awards night partner, Out of the Square Media.Awards will be presented in 22 categories, plus an Outstanding Achievement in Theatre Award.
The strength of the theatre work of Newcastle and Lower Hunter companies is shown by 39 shows receiving 126 nominations, with 25 staging groups represented.