Six finalists took to the stage of Her Majesty’s tonight with a star-studded lineup of musical talent for the third annual Rob Guest Endowment Concert.

 

Ever-twinkling host Bert Newton oversaw an evening of song, dance and auction action in memory of the greatly loved star Rob Guest. Each of the finalists sang two numbers, interspersed with guest stars, who shone a spotlight on Australian compositions this year.

 

Before a note of music was played, the audience were treated to a fascinating new mini-documentary about the 125-year history of Her Majesty’s Theatre. Given the significance of the theatre over time, this was like a potted history of Australian musical theatre. Hopefully a wide audience will be able to see the documentary.

 

Highlights of Australian numbers included Melissa Langton and Belinda Wollaston with a duet from the currently-in-limbo Strange Bedfellows. Esther Hannaford showed why she won a Green Room Best Actress award for Dean Bryant and Mathew Frank's Once We lived Here, singing a lush orchestration of “As Far As The Eye Can See”. The standout Australian number was Matthew Robinson’s “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” by the top-notch quartet of Lucy Durack, Alex Rathgeber, Rob Mills and Lucy Maunder.

 

Act two opened with an auction, which raised over $6000 from only three items. A framed wand used by Lucy Durack as Glinda in Wicked raised a massive $3000! The level of generosity from all artists involved in the concert was truly inspiring.

 

Luigi Lucente proved the old adage ‘less is more’ with “The Way You Look Tonight”, and then showed a touch of the blarney with a strong character piece “The Streets of Dublin” from Ahrens and Flaherty’s A Man of No Importance.

 

Gorgeous Kirby Lunn sang the suitably titled “Gorgeous” in act one, followed by Stephen Schwartz’s “Spark Of Creation” from Children of Eden.

 

Jamie Ward chose the flashy “Use What You’ve Got” from The Life, which he followed with a restrained performance of Spring Awakening’s “Mirror Blue Night” which really drew the audience to him.

 

Ashlea Pyke started with the subdued “Quiet” before bringing down the house with classic Funny Girl anthem “Don’t Rain On My Parade”.

 

The knockout performance of act one was arguably Gretel Scarlett’s comedic tour de force rendition of “Getting Married Today” from Stephen Sondheim’s Company. Scarlett took an incredibly difficult and risky song and made it funnier than ever. Her second number was the traditional belter’s favourite “On My Own” from Les Misérables.

 

Blake Bowden chose two powerhouse tenor belts and knocked them out of the park: “Proud Lady” from Stephen Schwartz’s The Baker’s Wife was followed by Disney’s Beauty and the Beast’s magnificent “If I Can’t Love Her”.

 

Head Judge, and Musical Director of the evening, Kellie Dickerson ultimately announced Blake Bowden (pictured) as the winner of this year’s Endowment. Bowden receives $10,000 for tuition, media training and new headshots.

 

Finally, Anna O’Byrne and Simon Gleeson, filling in for Ben Lewis, led the cast of Love Never Dies in a stirring rendition of Candide’s “Make Our Garden Grow”.

 

See you at next year’s concert!

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