Arts / The CATS head west for a big night in Dubbo

“GO West” is the imperative in the popular disco and showbiz song by the Village People and the 23-year-old Canberra Area Theatre Awards – the CATS – have done just that, with its gala night of nights taking place for the first time outside the nation’s capital in Dubbo.

Gold CAT Award winner Janet Cunningham, a drama and theatre studies teacher at Wollongong High School of Performing Arts.

The move into the regions, inspired by the NSW government’s loyal financial support of the CATS for the last few years, didn’t seem to dampen the enthusiasm of CATgoers as they donned their high heels and feather boas to pack the Dubbo Regional Theatre on Saturday night (February 18) to see hosts, TV actor John Wood and “CityNews” music writer Ian McLean, introduce acts and the 47 people singled out by the judges for their work in the year 2016.

Top CAT for 2016, winner of the Gold CAT Award, was Janet Cunningham, a drama and theatre studies teacher at Wollongong High School of Performing Arts. Not only is she a 4.2-star rated pedagogue, she was instrumental in transforming Wollongong’s oldest high school into a specialised performing arts institution.

Descended from a long line of Wollongong High alumni, Cunningham was praised by the judges for directing, set design, costume design, teaching and inspiring students at the school, which also carried off several other awards on the night, including one to Cunningham as Best Director of a School or Youth Musical.

The Silver CAT Award went to another CATS stalwart, Molong Players, for bringing original theatre to the Molong community for the last 40 years and for raising more than $1.5 million for local charities.

Among the guests for the evening were “Mr Hollywood Gossip” Craig Bennett, actor/entrepreneur Simon Gallaher, TV personality Maggie Kirkpatrick, singer/songwriter Peter Cupples and former CAT awardee, professional actor Billie Bouchier, who entertained the crowd with “This Is the Moment” from the musical “Jekyll & Hyde”.

Gallaher, Bennett and Cupples joined to present a tribute to Jon English. The partner of the late actor/musician, Coralea Cameron, was on hand to present a commemorative award for Best Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical to Daniel Downing from So Popera Productions in Wollongong, who has gone on to feature in the Melbourne production of “Kinky Boots”.

An award for Best Director of a School or Youth Play went to “CityNews” theatre critic Joe Woodward for Daramalan Theatre Company’s “The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui”.

There was a light touch of irony in the fact that the NSW government’s own award for Best Production of a Musical went to Canberra’s Free Rain Theatre for its production of “Wicked”.

CATS founder Coralie Wood said she was thrilled at the way regional theatre groups had embraced the awards, which started in 1994 with just a handful of Canberra-based companies and a few judges.

CAT Awards 2016 winners are:

BEST SET DESIGNER FOR A PLAY, Quentin Mitchell, “ Witness for the Prosecution,” Canberra Repertory Society;

BEST SET DESIGNER FOR A MUSICAL, VARIETY OR DANCE PRODUCTION,  Chris Zuber,  “Spring Awakening”, Phoenix Players, Canberra AND Heath Neville, “Grease”, Marian Catholic College, Griffith;

JOHN THOMSON MAGIC MOMENT OF THEATRE,  Disappearance of the witches in “Macbeth”, Canberra Repertory Society;

BEST COSTUME DESIGNER FOR A PLAY, Anna Senior, “She Stoops to Conquer”, Canberra Repertory Society;

BEST COSTUME DESIGNER FOR A SCHOOL OR YOUTH PRODUCTION, The Legs teachers, “Legs on Broadway”, Legs Dance, Canberra;

BEST COSTUME DESIGNER FOR A MUSICAL OR VARIETY SHOW, Jessica Grantham-Lee, “The Producers,” So Popera Productions, Wollongong;

PATRICIA KELSON ENCOURAGEMENT AWARD, Luca Yi as Benjamin in “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” Dreamcoat Productions, Merimbula AND as Pugsley Addams in  “The Addams Family,” Spectrum Theatre Group, Merimbula;

BEST LIGHTING DESIGNER, Hamish McConchie, “Spring Awakening,” Phoenix Players, Canberra;

BEST ORIGINAL WORK, Fiona D’mello, Andy Hua and script team “Murder She Prescribed,” ANU Med Revue, Canberra;

BEST ORIGINAL WORK FOR A SCHOOL OR YOUTH PRODUCTION, Jeremy Boulton, music for “Ash Girl,” Wollongong High School of the Performing Arts;

BEST YOUTH ACTOR IN A FEATURED ROLE IN A PLAY, Ben Burgess as Teddy Brewster in “Arsenic and Old Lace,” Lake Tuggeranong College, Canberra;

BEST YOUTH ACTRESS IN A FEATURED ROLE IN A PLAY, Brodie Ackroyd as Pamela in “The Thirty-Nine Steps,” Chevalier College, Bowral;

BEST YOUTH ACTOR IN A FEATURED ROLE IN A MUSICAL, Matthew Hearne as Warner in “Legally Blonde,” Wollongong High School of the Performing Arts;

BEST YOUTH ACTRESS IN A FEATURED ROLE IN A MUSICAL, Kaitlin Nihill as Natalie Goodman in “Next to Normal,” Phoenix Players, Canberra;

BEST YOUTH ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE IN A PLAY, Patrick Holman as Richard Hannay in “The Thirty-Nine Steps,” Chevalier College, Bowral;

BEST YOUTH ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE IN A PLAY, Nicola Wetselaar as Jennifer Mitchell in “The Accused,” Narrabundah College, Canberra;

BEST YOUTH ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE IN A MUSICAL, Jeremy Boulton as Emmet in “Legally Blonde,” Wollongong High School of the Performing Arts;

BEST YOUTH ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE IN A MUSICAL, Talia Sigsworth as Elle in “Legally Blonde,” Wollongong High School of the Performing Arts;

BEST DIRECTOR OF A SCHOOL OR YOUTH MUSICAL, Janet Cunningham, “Legally Blonde,” Wollongong High School of the Performing Arts;

BEST PRODUCTION OF A SCHOOL OR YOUTH PLAY, “The Thirty-Nine Steps,” Chevalier College, Bowral;

BEST DIRECTOR OF A SCHOOL OR YOUTH PLAY; Joe Woodward, “The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui”, Daramalan Theatre Company, Canberra Ensemble;

BEST VARIETY PERFORMANCE BY AN INDIVIDUAL OR ENSEMBLE, Cathryn Youings as Ms Scarlet in “Murder She Prescribed,” ANU Med Revue, Canberra;

MARY PORTER SCHOLARSHIP; Kaitlin Nihill;

AMB TECHNICAL ACHIEVEMENT, David Bunting, for researching, purchasing and developing the flying rig, “Mary Poppins,” Orange Theatre Company;

OATLEY WINES BEST PRODUCTION OF A VARIETY SHOW, “Murder She Prescribed,” ANU Med Revue, Canberra

QUEANBEYAN PLAYERS’ BEST ACTOR IN A FEATURED ROLE IN A PLAY, Cameron Thomas as Macduff in “Macbeth,” Canberra Repertory Society;

BEST ACTRESS IN A FEATURED ROLE IN A PLAY, Alice Ferguson as Janet Mackenzie in “Witness for the Prosecution,” Canberra Repertory Society;

BEST ACTOR IN A FEATURED ROLE IN A MUSICAL, Fraser Findlay as Dr Dillamond in “Wicked,” Free-Rain Theatre Company, Canberra AND Nelson Bowler as Carmen Ghia in “The Producers,” So Popera Productions, Wollongong  findex;

BEST ACTRESS IN A FEATURED ROLE IN A MUSICAL, Louiza Blomfield as Ursula in “The Little Mermaid,” Free Rain Theatre Company, Canberra;

BEST MUSICAL DIRECTOR FOR A SCHOOL OR YOUTH PRODUCTION, Ruth Ellevsen, “Legally Blonde,” Wollongong High School of the Performing Arts;

BEST ORCHESTRA FOR A SCHOOL OR YOUTH PRODUCTION, The Addams Family Lyneham High School, Canberra;

BEST PRODUCTION OF A SCHOOL OR YOUTH MUSICAL,  “Legally Blonde,” Wollongong High School of the Performing Arts;

BEST ENSEMBLE IN A PLAY,  The cast, “Playhouse Creatures,” Pigeonhole Productions, Canberra ;

DUBBO JAGAR LAND ROVER’S BEST ENSEMBLE IN A MUSICAL; The ensemble cast, “Wicked,” Free Rain Theatre Company, Canberra;

JIM AND HEATHER LEEDMAN, BEST DANCE PERFORMANCE BY AN INDIVIDUAL OR ENSEMBLE, Gladiator Art Pop, Senior National Team, “Legs on Broadway,” Legs Dance, Canberra;

NATIONAL CAPITAL MOTORS, BEST ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE IN A PLAY, Arran McKenna as Frederick Fellowes/Philip Brent in “Noises Off,” Canberra Repertory Society

MR AND MRS BOB WINNEL, BEST ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE IN A PLAY, Alex Rapp as Rita in “Educating Rita,” On 4 Young and Old, Burradoo AND Jenna Roberts as Lady Macbeth in “Macbeth,”Canberra Repertory Society;

JON ENGLISH BEST ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE IN A MUSICAL, Daniel Downing as Leo Bloom in “The Producers,” So Popera Productions, Wollongong; AND Spencer Cliff as Sweeney Todd in “Sweeney Todd,” ANU Interhall PRODUCTIONS, CANBERRA;

TEATRO VIVALDI BEST ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE IN A MUSICAL, Kirrah Amosa as Elphaba in “Wicked,” Free Rain Theatre Company, Canberra;

MARJORY AND PETER KOBOLD BEST MUSICAL DIRECTOR, Katrina Tang, “Sweeney Todd,” ANU Interhall Productions, Canberra;

RICHARDS CONSULTING BEST CHOREOGRAPHER Michelle Heine “Wicked,” Free-Rain Theatre Company, Canberra;

DSP AND STAGE WHISPERS, BEST DIRECTOR OF A PLAY, Jordan Best “Playhouse Creatures,” Pigeonhole Productions, Canberra;

MR AND MRS KEITH CROWE BEST DIRECTOR OF A MUSICAL OR VARIETY SHOW, Amy Copeland, “The Producers,” So Popera Productions, Wollongong;

JOAN MARY AND MICHAEL O’BRIEN BEST DANCE PRODUCTION, “Legs on Broadway,” Legs Dance, Canberra;

SARAH BYRNE BEST ORCHESTRA, “Sweeney Todd,” ANU Interhall Productions, Canberra AND “The Producers,” So Popera Productions, Wollongong;

BEST PRODUCTION OF A PLAY, “Playhouse Creatures,” Pigeonhole Productions, Canberra;

NSW GOVERNMENT BEST PRODUCTION OF A MUSICAL, “Wicked,” Free-Rain Theatre Company, Canberra;

ACTEWAGL SILVER CAT AWARD 2016, Molong Players, for bringing original theatre to the Molong community for the last 40 years, and for raising more than 1.5 million dollars for local charities;

ICON WATER GOLD CAT AWARD, Janet Cunningham, Wollongong High School of the Performing Arts, for  directing, set design, costume design, teaching and inspiring students at Wollongong High School of the Performing Arts.  

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