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For almost 20 years, Sydney’s annual Hats Off! spectacular has brought together a host of high calibre performers from across the industry, in the name of raising vital funds for the fight against HIV and AIDS.

That time of the year has come around once again and, this evening, 116 volunteer cast, crew and orchestra members will take to the York Theatre stage for Hats Off! For Harmony at the Seymour Centre.

Presented by Oz Showbiz Cares/Equity Fights AIDs, all proceeds from this evening’s show will be donated to ACON and the Bobby Goldsmith Foundation – two organisations dedicated to ensuring ongoing HIV/AIDS research and to assisting those currently living with HIV.

Directed by Ed Grey, last year’s show raised an impressive $45,000. Back for his second stint as director, Grey and the Hats Off! team hope this year’s total will exceed that result.

“HIV/AIDS… is still a big issue that needs a lot of attention and funds for research, even though there’ve been great advancements with medical technology,” Grey tells Theatre People.

“I think this night is a way to put our money where our mouths are, and really support great research and the community.”

If you’ve seen most major musicals to have played Sydney in recent years, you’ve likely seen Grey himself on stage. Having taken on Georg in STC’s remarkable 2010 production of Spring Awakening, to Boq in the recent Australian tour of Wicked, he’s built an impressive CV early on in his performing career.

So how did the opportunity arise for Grey to direct Hats Off!?

“A friend of mine, Flip Simmons, directed it previously. He called me completely out of the blue and asked me if I’d like to direct,” Grey says.

“I was quite startled because I hadn’t really done any directing before, but I’d been interested in it.”

Grey agreed and successfully led the team behind 2015’s Hats Off! He’s excited to have the chance to once again lead a cracking team of performers in what consistently proves to be a stellar evening of theatrical entertainment.

“It’s been a really good experience… It’s such a collaborative process. It’s really satisfying because you get to work so closely with the creative team, but also with such a broad range of wonderful artists… It’s really fun to be part of.”

Reading the cast roster for 2016, the depth of talent assembled evokes much excitement. Fresh from his Helpmann-nominated portrayal of Thérnadier in Les Misérables, Trevor Ashley is this the 2016 Hats Off! ambassador. He’ll be joined on stage by a cast that includes Rhonda Burchmore, Ali Calder, Michael Cormick, Martin Crewes, Casey Donovan, Tim Draxl and the wonderful Queenie van de Zandt (currently showing the whole of Australia just how much talent she really has!)  Hosting this year’s show are Tom Sharah and Gillian Cosgriff, and musical direction comes courtesy of another industry veteran, Anne-Maree McDonald.

Given the quality of talent to be featured, attendees can expect a high standard of performances from Hats Off! For Harmony. As the man at the helm of it all, are there any moments of the show Grey is especially excited about?

“Andy Dexterity, who… choreographed the recent award-winning production of Rent at The Hayes, is doing a beautiful piece and I’m really looking forward to it,” he says.

“We’ve got a quintet of women singing ‘Natural woman’, which I think will be a bit of a showstopper because it’s five women with hot voices.

“But I look forward to everyone. Otherwise, I wouldn’t put them in the show!”

So if your Monday evening is looking quiet, and you’re somewhere within the Greater Sydney area, why not head down to the Seymour Centre to treat yourself to the wonderful theatrical experience that will be Hats Off! For Harmony. Not only will you have the opportunity to witness an incredible array of current talent, but you’ll also be able to make a crucial contribution to HIV/AIDS research.

Interested in taking one of the final tickets for tonight’s extravaganza? Here are all of the details you need!

HATS OFF! FOR HARMONY

Hats Off! for Harmony will take place tonight (Monday 22 February 2016) at the York Theatre, Seymour Centre (corner of City Rd and Cleveland St, Chippendale) at 8pm.

PRICES: A Reserve – $95, B Reserve – $75, C Reserve – $35, Mardi Gras Member/ Conc/ MEAA – $70

Tickets available online at seymourcentre.com or 02 9351 7940

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