Music, News & Commentary, Stage Helpmann Awards 2015: the talking points By Ben Neutze | July 28, 2015 | The Australian performing arts industry’s premier awards, the Helpmanns were presented at the Capitol Theatre in Sydney last night. Daily Review‘s Ben Neutze was there for the red carpet, ceremony and late into the night at the after party to pick up on all the biggest talking points of the night. Sydney, Sydney, Sydney The Helpmanns come under constant criticism for being too focused on Sydney and Melbourne, and at least in the theatre categories Sydney picked up the majority of the awards. Sydney Theatre Company picked up three awards and Belvoir picked up two awards, including Best Play for its production of The Glass Menagerie. All four productions which were nominated for that award played in Sydney (and all received glowing reviews in Daily Review). Voters are only required to have seen two nominees in each category they vote in. So naturally productions which play in cities with higher populations, productions which tour and productions with longer seasons are in a stronger position to win. The situation was quite different when it came to the opera categories this year. Brisbane Baroque beats the big guys The Brisbane Baroque production of Faramondo, which played just four performances in Brisbane’s small Conservatorium Theatre picked up five awards, more than any other opera. Opera Australia performed well with four awards for The Rabbits, one for Faust and three for its co-production of Anything Goes, but the national opera company often manages to sweep the opera fields. Kate Miller-Heidke wins big Kate Miller-Heidke is best known as a pop singer-songwriter, but last year she returned to her operatic roots to write her first ever opera, The Rabbits, written with composer Iain Grandage and librettist Lally Katz. The Opera Australia and Barking Gecko co-production picked up awards for Best New Australian Work, Original Score, Costume Design and Presentation for Children. Miller-Heidke thanked Lyndon Terracini from Opera Australia and John Sheedy from Barking Gecko for taking a chance on her when the longest thing she’d ever written before the opera was a four-minute pop song. The Rabbits has so far only played the Perth International Arts Festival but has a short season coming up in Melbourne in October and is set to come to Sydney. LPA speaks out in favour of small-to-medium arts companies For an event which is usually just about a glittering red carpet and celebrating the achievements of those in the performing arts sector, this year’s Helpmanns took a somewhat political turn with several pointed references to Federal Arts Minister George Brandis’ cuts to the Australia Council, though his name was not mentioned. Brandis was in the audience and was seen mingling at the after party. NSW Arts Minister Troy Grant begin his speech by noting that he was glad to be attending as the arts minister who had not cut funding, but Andrew Kay, President of Live Performance Australia, delivered a passionate speech defending small-to-medium arts organisations, who are under immediate threat from Brandis’ changes to arts funding. He said that they were vital sources of innovation and proving grounds for emerging artists. The speech was met with loud applause from the 2000 artists, administrators and fans gathered in the audience. Comedian Denise Scott, on presenting the award for Best Regional Touring Production, said that she met her husband back in 1981 working for a clown performance company in Albury-Wodonga. She said that, miraculously, the entire company was government funded and joked about what Alan Jones might do with a story like that if it happened today. Eamon Flack – the great forgotten (?) director This is the second year in a row a production by director Eamon Flack has picked up the Best Play award when Flack hasn’t even been nominated for Best Director. Last year, Flack won for his production of Angels in America, and this year for The Glass Menagerie, which used live video feeds to draw emotional focus to the piece. Flack takes over from Ralph Myers as the artistic director of Belvoir at the end of this year. Maybe then the nominating committees will remember to nominate him. Musical blockbusters take home top prizes While last year indie darling the Hayes Theatre Company took home three Helpmanns for its production of Sweet Charity, this year every musical theatre award went to a major commercial production — Les Miserables (which won Best Musical), Once and Anything Goes. Helpmann Awards 2015: the winners NEW AUSTRALIAN WORK The Rabbits. Opera Australia and Barking Gecko in association with West Australia Opera. Perth International Arts Festival and Melbourne Festival PLAY The Glass Menagerie, Belvoir DIRECTION OF A PLAY Kip Williams, Suddenly Last Summer, Sydney Theatre Company FEMALE ACTOR IN A PLAY Pamela Rabe, The Glass Menagerie, Belvoir MALE ACTOR IN A PLAY Hugo Weaving, Endgame, Sydney Theatre Company FEMALE ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A PLAY Helen Thomson, After Dinner, Sydney Theatre Company MALE ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A PLAY John Bell, As You Like It, Bell Shakespeare OPERA Faramondo, Brisbane Baroque DIRECTION OF AN OPERA Paul Curran, Faramondo MALE PERFORMER IN AN OPERA Michael Fabiano, Faust, Opera Australia FEMALE PERFORMER IN AN OPERA Jennifer Rivera, Faramondo MALE PERFORMER IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN AN OPERA Christopher Lowrey, Faramondo FEMALE PERFORMER IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN AN OPERA Anna Devin, Faramondo MUSICAL Les Miserables, Cameron Mackintosh CHOREOGRAPHY IN A MUSICAL Andrew Hallsworth, Anything Goes, Opera Australia and John Frost DIRECTION OF A MUSICAL John Tiffany, Once. John Frost, Barbara Broccoli, John N. Hart Jr, Patrick Milling Smith and Frederick Zollo in association with the Melbourne Theatre Company FEMALE ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A MUSICAL Kerrie Anne Greenland, Les Miserables FEMALE ACTOR IN A MUSICAL Caroline O’Connor, Anything Goes MALE ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A MUSICAL Alex Rathgeber, Anything Goes MALE ACTOR IN A MUSICAL Simon Gleeson, Les Miserables BALLET OR DANCE WORK Frame of Mind, Sydney Dance Company CHOREOGRAPHY IN A DANCE OR PHYSICAL THEATRE PRODUCTION Rafael Bonachela, Frame of Mind FEMALE DANCER IN A DANCE OR PHYSICAL THEATRE PRODUCTION Chloe Leong, William Forsythe’s Quintett, Sydney Dance Company MALE DANCER IN A DANCE OR PHYSICAL THEATRE PRODUCTION Cass Mortimer Eipper, William Forsythe’s Quintett VISUAL AND/OR PHYSICAL THEATRE PRODUCTION The Paper Architect. Davy and Kristin McGuire and Perth International Arts Festival CHAMBER AND/OR INSTRUMENTAL ENSEMBLE CONCERT Les Arts Florissants and Le Jardin des Voix in Un Jardin a l’italienne, Melbourne Recital Centre, Sydney Opera House and Perth International Arts Festival SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA CONCERT Reflections on Gallipoli, Australian Chamber Orchestra INDIVIDUAL CLASSICAL MUSIC PERFORMANCE William Christie, Melbourne Recital Centre, Sydney Opera House and Perth International Arts Festival REGIONAL TOURING PRODUCTION Festival of Circa PRESENTATION FOR CHILDREN The Rabbits COSTUME DESIGN Gabriela Tylesova, The Rabbits LIGHTING DESIGN Paule Constable, Les Miserables ORIGINAL SCORE Kate Miller-Heidke with Iain Grandage, The Rabbits MUSIC DIRECTION Martin Lowe, Once SCENIC DESIGN Geoff Cobham, Little Bird, State Theatre Company of South Australia SOUND DESIGN Mick Potter, Les Miserables CABARET PERFORMER Camille O’Sullivan COMEDY PERFORMER Judith Lucy AUSTRALIAN CONTEMPORARY CONCERT Chet Faker CONTEMPORARY MUSIC FESTIVAL Vivid Live INTERNATIONAL CONTEMPORARY CONCERT Ed Sheeran SPECIAL EVENT The Incredible and Phenomenal Journey of the Giants to the Streets of Perth. Royal de luxe and Perth Festival SUE NATTRASS AWARD Eric Robinson JC WILLIAMSON AWARD Paul Kelly Facebook Twitter Pinterest LinkedIn Email About the Author: Ben Neutze Ben Neutze is Deputy Editor of Daily Review. He has previously written for Time Out Sydney, The Guardian Australia and Limelight Magazine.