Music, News & Commentary, Stage

Helpmann Awards 2015: the talking points

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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 MenagerieAll 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

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