Editor Simon looks back over the year in musical theatre in an attempt to read the minds of Helpmann Award voters.
Unlike the Tonys, which are, believe it or not, incredibly easy to predict based on extensive press coverage and plenty of earlier award shows, the Helpmann Awards are trickier to predict. This year, in particular, sees an incredibly strong line up vying for the top gongs. Who will win? And who should practice their ‘It’s an honour just to be nominated’ response? Here are my blow-by-blow thoughts…
Best Male Actor in a Supporting Role in a Musical
Scott Irwin , Hairspray – An incredibly good sport in a somewhat lame supporting role, Irwin has played bigger roles with greater success (who could forget him in The Production Company’s Annie Get Your Gun and Kiss Me, Kate?).
Martin Crewes, Doctor Zhivago - In his first major role since returning to Australia, Crewes made a terrific impression and will surely be in work here for many years to come. Haven’t heard him sing “Evermore Without You” on London’s The Woman in White cast recording? Check it out and prepare to be blown away.
Philip Quast , Mary Poppins - Surely the front-runner here due to the double whammy of sensational performer playing by far the most interesting ‘supporting’ role. If the show wasn’t already named after the flying nanny it would be called George Banks. Not quite as catchy but Mr Banks has the most significant story arc and is a whisker away from being a lead role.
Simon Gleeson , Love Never Dies – Another Australian freshly returned from London, Gleeson is super talented and will hopefully be another star in frequent rotation on the Australian stage.
Best Female Actor in a Supporting Role in a Musical
Esther Hannaford, Hairspray - Give Hannaford the award now and save all the bother. And then give her whatever role she wants to play next). My votes: Mary Robert, the postulant in Sister Act or Brenda, the Kerry Butler role in Catch Me If You Can)
Alinta Chidzey , West Side Story - Chidzey followed up West Side with a strong showing in The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber. Her triple threat talents will surely see her in demand for years to come.
Taneel Van Zyl , Doctor Zhivago - Heartbreakingly beautiful in Zhivago, Van Zyl lit up the stage and garnered plenty of audience sympathy in a slightly underwritten role. Will surely follow up this breakout performance with future success.
Marina Prior , Mary Poppins - Undisputedly the First Lady of Australian musical theatre, Prior made the most of a rare supporting role.
Best Choreography in a Musical
Jason Coleman , Hairspray - Coleman’s achievement here is not just the spectacularly entertaining chorry he came up with but the super human enthusiasm and energy with which he infused the dancers.
Matthew Bourne and Stephen Mear , Mary Poppins- Matthew Bourne? What chance does anyone have against Matthew Bourne? His Swan Lake has been performed more often than the traditional staging. How do you top the male lead tapping across the proscenium arch?
Graeme Murphy, Love Never Dies - Murphy has frequently shown himself capable of far more than this. His upcoming Romeo and Juliet for The Australian Ballet has expectations at a fever pitch.
Kelly Devine Doctor Zhivago - There was choreography in Doctor Zhivago?
Best Direction of a Musical
David Atkins, Hairspray - Atkins deserves this just for proving all his doubters wrong with his incredible vision for this beloved show, not to mention the strength of his convictions in insisting Australia re-stage a show that had already won the Tony.
Des McAnuff, Doctor Zhivago - Broadway legend McAnuff breathed life into what could have a dreary affair. Already a Helpmann loser for Jersey Boys, McAnuff will be empty-handed again this year.
Richard Eyre and Matthew Bourne , Mary Poppins - this pair of West End legends will give Phillips a very tight run for his money
Simon Phillips, Love Never Dies - Phillips pulled off the impossible with his sensational production of a show that could have DOA with the bad press coming in from London. His stamp of quality is all over the production and a win would be well deserved but a sweep by Poppins would knock him out of contention.
Best Male Actor in a Musical
Anthony Warlow, Doctor Zhivago - They don’t come more award-worthy than this: an Australian legend playing the title role in a brand new musical.
David Harris, Wicked - Didn’t Wicked open back in 2008? How is it back in contention? Everyone loves Harris but Fiyero is by no means a lead role.
Matt Lee, Mary Poppins - Lee had some great dance moves.
Ben Lewis , Love Never Dies - the opening solo alone could win it for this ‘overnight’ success. Can’t wait to hear him sing it on the national Helpmanns telecast.
Best Female Actor in a Musical
Jaz Flowers, Hairspray - Flowers imbued the loveable Tracy with the perfect blend of humour and pathos, singing and dancing her heart out in an inspirational and unforgettable performance.
Lucy Maunder, Doctor Zhivago - Kudos to Maunder for being a worthy love interest for the great Warlow in a performance that was a deceptive blend of strength and fragility.
Jemma Rix , Wicked - A lovely, talented performer who will hopefully open a show in a lead role sometime soon.
Verity Hunt-Ballard, Mary Poppins - despite the terrific performance by Flowers, Hunt-Ballard has this in the bag. The amazing thing is that overseas Marys did not get any sort of look in at awards ceremonies.
Hairspray - My personal favourite, this production absolutely blew me away with its originality and high energy. I thought I couldn’t love any show more than the Broadway Hairspray but this re-defined the capabilities of Australian theatre and will hopefully inspire many more original stagings here.
Doctor Zhivago - A noble attempt at a successful new musical.
Mary Poppins - The likely winner, despite not just being a copy of the West End production but scaled down to the touring production size. The show is divine though, and our cast was far superior to the original West End and Broadway casts
Love Never Dies - A very close second to Hairspray for me. I would love this to win and really put this production on the map.