If you talk to anyone who has performed at Chapel Off Chapel there is one person they all know and adore: Ibrahim Mustafa, the Marketing and Producer Liaison Officer at Chapel Off Chapel. It will be a huge week ahead for Mustafa and his team at Chapel Off Chapel as they celebrate Chapel's 20th birthday with a different show each night and a special, free exhibition in the foyer and gallery.
Although heralded as the City of Stonnington's premier venue for the visual and performing arts, Chapel Off Chapel is more than simply a local, municipal venue: it's also an important part of the Melbourne theatre scene. Over the past 20 years, Chapel Off Chapel has become one of “the” places in the country to get a gig at – an “Off East End” type of venue for Melbourne, similar to the concept of Off-Broadway. It's the ideal venue for established performers to try out a new show in a more intimate space, new composers to perform their works to an audience and for emerging performers to raise their profile.
Chapel attracts shows that would not otherwise be seen in Melbourne. This year already, Chapel has been the venue for the Australian premieres of Loving Repeating and In The Heights, which both received rave reviews from critics. In the coming months Chapel will host Avenue Q as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival and the Australian premiere of Dreamgirls. As Mustafa explains, the venue offers quality sound and lighting systems, and suitably sized theatres for production companies that can't afford the massive outlay required for the large theatres in Melbourne's CBD. Chapel is boutique, intimate and special.
Mustafa considers an important role for Chapel is supporting and raising the profile of emerging performers, but Chapel has also been the home for some bigger names.
“We've had massive stars here like David Harris, and with our Live at The Chapel we had Coldplay and Foo Fighters … You can see something up close and personal that you wouldn't see elsewhere,” comments Mustafa.
Mustafa is proud of the performers and their shows that first started at Chapel but have now continued with seasons elsewhere. Matthew Mitcham is taking his cabaret show Twists and Turns to the UK, Danielle Matthews recently performed Where Do I Begin? at the Arts Centre and Matthew Lee Robinson is now in New York and bound for Broadway after his concert presentations of both Atlantis and Happy People last year at Chapel Off Chapel. Mustafa loves to nurture local home grown talent – which is clear by the inclusion of Nick Hedger and Ben Nicholson's show Worth the Breath as part of the Chapel Off Chapel’s 20th birthday week.
Mustafa has worked at Chapel Off Chapel for the past nine years and has seen significant change during that time: new, retractable seating in the Loft, upgraded sound and lighting systems and a move to online ticketing. Further development of the venue is still planned, including the inclusion of a lift for wheelchair access to the upstairs gallery.
Chapel Off Chapel offers a diverse range of shows across a broad range of genres and, as a result, has a wide age range amongst the audience. While there is plenty of local support for the venue, people travel from all over Melbourne and beyond to events at Chapel.
Mustafa hopes all productions sell well, but it's not his definition of what determines the success of a season at Chapel. “For me, it's when the producers and actual performers come up to me and say, 'I've learned so much from this experience.' It doesn't matter what they made at the box office, it's what they learnt and how they've grown through the process.”
Join in the celebrations and help Chapel Off Chapel celebrate 20 years.
16 March- We Got This Covered- A Night Of Musical Mash Ups (starring Andrew Cook and Loren Hunter)
17 March- PARALLAX- A Brief Love Encounter (Vertical Shadows Dance Company)
18 March- The Mama Alto Revue (in collaboration with Miss Chief)
19 March- An Evening With Dolly Diamond (accompanied by Cameron Thomas)
20 March- Worth The Breath (Hedger and Nicholson)
21 March- Show Of At Chapel (open mic)