In recent years “The Sapphires” have taken centre stage and screen. Then there was our own late jazz legend, Gary Scott, born Diana Diamond, who often began with her key showstopper, “Diamonds Are Forever.”
Now a new generation of Diamonds are taking to the stage, as two of Scott’s student protégés at the ANU School of Music, Karen Strahan and Jill Walsh, prepare for the world premiere of their musical, “Winging My Way to the Top”, opening soon at The Q, Queanbeyan.
It’s about a trio of singing sisters – the Diamond sisters, Pearl, Ruby and Beryl – who have a second go at making the big time in showbiz.
Sharp “CityNews” readers will have noticed that pearls, rubies and beryls commonly adorn precious rings, and if that’s not enough, Ruby’s lifetime partner is called Godfrey Goldsmith.
Enter the next-door neighbour Phyllis Jones. With a name like that, you might imagine she’s just an ordinary suburban mum, but you’d be wrong.
Gaye Reid, who like Strahan and Walsh is a member of the vocal quartet, The Marvellous Mizdemeanours, plays the larger-than-life character. “Phyllis is a bigger affirmation of myself,” Reid tells “CityNews”. Formerly a sexy Solid Gold Dancer in the US, Phyllis hoofed and slept her way to the top before returning to her native Australia to set up the Solid Gold Nugget Company in Wollongong.
She lives next door to Beryl, now married to the unambitious Charlie Cheapside (played by the show’s director Gordon Nicholson) and rapidly becomes a mentor, especially to the talented Pearl, played by Lisa McClelland, another Mizdemeanour.
“Phyllis has done it all, but she still has her pride,” says Reid. In the show, written by singers for singers, everybody has their own theme song. Hers is “Follow Nugget Blues”, a number suited to her low-register jazz voice, which we’ve been hearing in Canberra since 1991. With a career in jazz, pop and rock, and an award as Best Blues Vocalist, Reid also has an entertainment agency and a graphic design business, the latter proving enormously helpful in this new showbiz venture.
Phyllis is the supremely confident character in a musical that Reid says has very few sad moments, great comic timing and a rollicking comedic sense throughout. She’s betting that most of the songs will have you singing and dancing as you come out and – this is even more optimistic – “guys are going to love it”.
“Winging My Way to the Top”, The Q, Queanbeyan, May 8-17, bookings to 6285 6290 or theq.net.au