After attending the Victorian Music Theatre Guild Awards in December last year, I felt a little bit like I was a contestant walking in to the second leg of Four Weddings (A Foxtel favorite of mine) when arriving at the 2011 Lyrebird Awards on Saturday night. With scorecard in hand I was ready to embrace the venue, the entertainment, the dresses, the food and the overall experience.
I must admit, this was my first ever '‘birds' and, following the somewhat controversial wrap up of the 2010 ceremony, I was unsure of what to expect.
The ceremony started with a video [here], which followed our host (Jonathan Guthrie-Jones) on his year-long quest to be noticed by the Lyrebird judges. This was a fantastic homage to the community involved in the Lyrebirds and seemed to be enjoyed by the audience. Personally, I found the sound to be an issue and struggled to hear a lot of it, which was a bit of a shame.
Finding a host that can keep an event like this moving and still be captivating for the audience is a very difficult task. Jonathan was a fantastic choice and did a brilliant job. He also ended the ceremony on a high note with his lovely performance of Without a Song."
The presentation of the awards moved along quite swiftly but I have to say, there are just too many categories. I love the inclusion of both the musical and ‘straight’ theatre communities and support this concept whole-heartedly. However, after speaking with a number of different people from both communities, there seems to be a general consensus that the separating of ‘drama’ and ‘comedy’ isn’t necessary and if there are less than six variety shows annually, there is no need to separate them from the musical categories.
The presentation of awards was split up nicely with a number of performances from nominated shows. Overall, there were too many ballads. I would have loved to have seen some more choreography, more ensemble numbers or just something more up-tempo. The highlight for me was undoubtedly Mark Doran’s "Gethsemane." Doran is an absolutely brilliant performer and the perfect showcase of the kind of talent the Melbourne theatre community has to offer. Daniel Mottau (performing "Maria" from West Side Story), Julia Sutherland ("Send in the Clowns") and the Fab Nobs' Spring Awakening cast also gave standout performances. Unfortunately SLAMS’ Avenue Q cast was let down by sound and "Steam Heat," performed by the cast of Babirra’s The Pajama Game, was under-rehearsed. Whilst the audience certainly got their seven and half cents worth, it may not have been the best representation of a show that took home a number of awards. Another big winner was Lilydale’s The 39 Steps. It can often be difficult to isolate a scene from a play and make it work in this kind of a setting, but the performance from their cast was thoroughly entertaining.
I must make mention of the band. They were excellent. Some of the music choices were a little obscure; I’m unsure how "Come On Eileen" made it in to the mix. By the end of the night it started to feel like they only had twelve bars of four different songs to play while people collected their awards. Maybe have a few more ready to go for next year.
I want to take a moment to touch on the trophy that is awarded to the winners. I have seen a Lyrebird or two in my time, in fact the Carmellotti/Barlow household is littered with them, but this year it seems the Lyrebirds have gone through a refurbishment (picture on right). There is no tactful way to say this; they are hideous. Certainly not something I would be putting on the mantle. I sincerely hope that decision is reconsidered in the future.
By 8:45 everyone was ready to start chipping away at their $75.00 share of booze. Walking in to the function room I felt like I was literally on the set of Four Weddings. To be completely honest, I was expecting to be served prison food. I was pleasantly surprised. The wine of the other hand was awful.
The dance floor was full for majority of the night, which I think is a good measure of success. The DJ was milking the music theatre crowd and giving them what they wanted. It was incredibly weird that he chose to end the night with "New York, New York." A closing number like that has no place anywhere but a Liza Minelli concert.
A big congratulations must go to Jo Buckingham and Jeremy Bailey Smith for putting together an excellent night. As I mentioned, I was a first timer but by all reports I have heard, it was the best Lyrebirds ever!
So how did the scorecard look at the end of the night?
The venue: The decorations left a little to be desired but quite good overall – 8/10
The dresses: There seemed to be two main trends. Über-long or incredibly short and a lot of suede footwear – 7/10
The entertainment: Mark Doran’s performance alone was worth the $75 ticket price –8/10
The food: The chicken was excellent, the pecan tart was a little questionable, the wine was terrible – 7/10
Overall experience: 8/10
Discounting the after party aspect, sorry Guilds, the Lyrebirds win the honeymoon.