City of Sydney Cabaret Convention 2003:
"And the Winners Are ..."
Sydney Town Hall (May 27th through 31st - 2003)
The final evening
of the Sydney Cabaret Convention traditionally has been an occasion
for a big party with entertainment from performers who were often
not representative of cabaret. As part of the festivities, the prizes
for best performances during the showcase evenings were announced.
This was nice enough, but the awards always seemed like an anti-climax.
In addition, while the party was pleasant, it somehow did not feel
like a fitting conclusion to a five day celebration of cabaret. This
year, Ron Creager and Christopher Coogan (artistic director and producer,
respectively) decided to change all that by making the real business
of the night the celebration of Australian cabaret talent in all its
glory. Oh yes, the winners of the highly sought-after prizes of the
Sydney Cabaret Convention 2003 were announced, but the evening was
a context for "the passing of the torch" to the new generation of
The judges for the Sydney
Cabaret Convention 2003 were Egil Kipste, Bernadette Hayes and Helen
Reddy. Egil Kipste and Bernadette Hayes are both producer/directors
with a strong background in theater, while Helen Reddy is a well-known
vocalist, recording artist, song-writer and actress. As a team, they
represented a unique compendium of knowledge about the skills that
are essential musical theater/cabaret. It is also noteworthy that
this year marked the first time that three judges were utilized, providing
a broader perspective from which to consider the talent on offer.
As I implied in my last
piece, fewer young performers took part in the showcase of the Convention
as a result of the changes put in place by Ron Creager, Christopher
Coogan, and their production team. Thanks to a process of live and
video auditions during the month before this event, the potential
field of over 100 applicants was narrowed to 12. In essence, everyone
who performed this week was a winner. This lifted the general performance
standard for the entire week and enabled us, as well as the judges,
to take a more critical look at the work of these young artists.
As in previous years,
the City of Sydney, sponsors of the Sydney Cabaret Convention, awarded
three prizes. The two most highly cherished of these are The City
of Sydney Award and The New York Award. Both provide recipients with
round-trip tickets to New York City and passes to all sessions of
the upcoming Mabel Mercer Foundation New York Cabaret Convention.
However, The City of Sydney Award also includes the additional opportunity
to perform during New York Cabaret Convention. The third prize is
The Corporate Gold Award, a prize of $500 awarded by the judges to
the act most suited for corporate events. This year a fourth award
was inaugurated, The Judges Special Encouragement Award.
The first recipients of
The Judges Special Encouragement Award were Lucy Durack and Matthew
Robinson. These two young artists first met at the Western Australia
Academy for the Performing Arts several years ago. During the Cabaret
Convention, Lucy Durack performed a set of songs written for her by
Matthew Robinson during the evening dedicated to new Australian cabaret
material. If the sample of work is representative of Robinson's work,
his is a name to watch for. His style is reminiscent of John Bucchino,
with finely wrought lyrics set to long arching melodic lines. Lucy
Durack, currently working in the Australian production of MAMMA MIA!,
has a clear, pure soprano voice that was perfectly suited to this
music. Her advocacy of this music in tandem with Robinson's singing
and playing made a winning impression.
The Corporate Gold Award
was given to "The Idea Of North," an a Capella group (Trish Delaney-Brown,
Naomi Crellin, Nick Begbie and Andrew Piper) that has just returned
from the USA, having won the Harmony Sweepstakes Award. One of our
finest jazz musicians, James Morrison, has been quoted as saying that
The Idea of North " - is the best contemporary a Capella group in
the country!" There is little more that I can add to that. In terms
of quality of ensemble and elegance of arrangements, this group's
work is in the same league as that of The Swingle Singers in their
heyday. On top of that, they incorporate a wry, deadpan Australian
sense of humor that made their performance immensely entertaining.
I might add that The Idea of North have two CD's available which can
be purchased by contacting the CD Collector at http://www.cdcollector.com.au/.
The New York Award was
given to Kaye Tuckerman. Her's was the last performance to be heard
on the final showcase night; she stopped the show with a virtuoso
set of numbers including Duke Ellington's "Imagine My Frustration,"
Christine Lavin's "Artificial Means," India Arie's "I'm Ready for
Love," and concluding with a sizzling rendition of Carol Hall's "Twenty-four
Hours of Lovin'". Tuckerman is multi-talented: she is an actress,
dancer, singer and director. She has already made a number of stage
appearances (the original Australian production of BOY FROM OZ, BUDDY,
JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, SOUTH PACIFIC) and can be seen in the MATRIX-RELOADED
film. As a performer she moves like a Las Vegas dancer, sings with
the elegance of Cleo Laine and delivers lines with the rapier timing
of a young Anne Bancroft. I have no doubt that she will be performing
somewhere in New York City when she attends the NY Cabaret Convention;
don't miss her.
And finally we come to
the most highly coveted prize of all, The City of Sydney Award. This
year it was awarded to Shaun Rennie. Shaun started working on his
career by attending the prestigious Singer, Actor, Dancer, Musical
Theatre course taught at the National Institute of Dramatic Arts in
Sydney while still in his final year of high school (he is now just
21). Since that time he has performed in a number of corporate shows
and concerts, performed in his own one-man cabaret show and landed
a role in the Australian company of MAMMA MIA! Shaun's winning performance
occurred on the second evening of the Convention and consisted of
the most elegantly crafted cabaret set of the entire week. Starting
with "I got No Strings " (Harline/Washington) as a strong opener,
he followed with a moving and quietly intense version of "Starry,
Starry Night" (McLean), turning up with energy with a very funny piece
of Australian material entitled "I'm a Caterpillar of Society" (Weskley-Smith
and Wesley-Smith) and concluded with a touching rendition of "Mama,
A Rainbow" (Grossman/Hackady). The seamless construction of Shaun's
set was impressive, but what stood out was the honesty of his delivery
and the sheer purity and beauty of his voice.
I first came across Shaun
Rennie when he performed in the showcase of the Sydney Cabaret Convention
2000. At that time, in my review, I wrote that: " - there was one
young artist who impressed me and others with the quality of his work
this evening: Shaun Rennie. Though his set of songs was not particularly
coherent as a personal statement, his honesty in performance and ability
to reach out - set this young man apart from many of his fellow performers
this evening. This performer is clearly someone to look out for in
the future." I am delighted to see that Shaun is continuing to fulfill
the promise that was so evident when I wrote that report. I am certain
that those of you who are fortunate to hear Shaun Rennie when he performs
at the upcoming New York Cabaret Convention will share my enthusiasm.
I think this might be
a good place to conclude. In my next report, I will talk about the
Gala itself, as well as the other professionals who participated during
the four showcase performances of this Sydney Cabaret Convention 2003.
David M. Schwartz
of the 2003 Sydney Cabaret Convention
Reports of the 2002 Sydney Cabaret Convention
Reports of the 2001 Sydney Cabaret
Daily Reports of
the 2000 Sydney Cabaret Convention
Daily Reports of the 1999 Sydney Cabaret Convention
Daily Reports on
the 1998 Sydney Cabaret Convention
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