CATS get the cream from over the border

NSW deputy Premier John Barilaro made an on-screen appearance at last night’s Canberra Area Theatre Awards – The CATS – in Dubbo to announce government funding of $100,000 for the event over the next four years. 

And with it came the news that the Canberra Area Theatre Awards will from last night be known only as the CATS, presumably in deference to the NSW regional interest and support.

Gold CAT Award winner Janet Cunningham.

This was first time the CATS have been staged outside Canberra and look like being a thing of the future as the NSW government again confirms its financial support for the 23-year-old event, this year held at the packed  Dubbo Regional Theatre to see hosts, TV actor John Wood and “CityNews” music writer Ian McLean introduce acts and the 47 people singled outby 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. 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 Music to Daniel Downing from So Popera Productions in Wollongong, who has gone on to feature in the Melbourne production of “Kinky Boots”.

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

All the winners:


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