I RECENTLY FRONTED a music hall; an old-school, East-End-of-London line up of rollicking romance replete with all the requisite roister-doister of an era long gone.
How did this happen?
Well, truth be told I tried to get out of it. Twice. It had been fifteen years since I’d trodden the boards of any theatre and part of me wondered if I could still cut it in front of an audience. So I let it be known that the part of Eric von Schneider, master of ceremonies, was up for grabs… but no man in the Deepwater region of NSW would take on this pivotal role. It was up to me to play the lecherous ladies man!
The Deepwater Players have performed a piece of community theatre every couple of years since 1981, when much-needed funds for medical equipment could be raised in no other way. Across those decades, high-school teacher Jenny Sloman has directed the shows, and this year she handed over the reins to Richard Moon (who happens to be my husband… maybe that’s how I got the part?) to make his directorial debut.
The troupe stages its work within the Deepwater School of Arts, a late-Victorian country hall with a proscenium stage that we transformed into the Whitechapel Music Hall Theatre. Community volunteers did everything from feeding audiences to performing the show!
People flocked from across the region. Some even came from Brisbane, Sydney, Byron Bay and the Gold Coast to see us sing, dance and move our way through music, lyrics and steps from Noel Coward to Lady Gaga and Kenny Rogers!
Thanks to Max S. Harding having a camera at a central table, images were captured (please note: despite wearing an extremely convincing wig, it’s not my real hair!).
Phantom of the Music Hall was written in 1996 by Australian playwright Judith Prior and is bursting with comedy of highly questionable political incorrectness. Nevertheless, it manages to say something about diversity.
It’s the story of a misunderstood Phantom (played by Chris McIntosh) who doesn’t like pantomime but stalks the wings of the Whitechapel Theatre, spooking the cast and crew.
Ambitious new owner Mrs Worthington (Katie Newsome) is convinced that pantomime is the way to make money, and is madly pushing actors with questionable abilities – because all of them are actually the backstage crew – including stage hands Charley and Fred (Cath Wheatley and Charlie Coldham), stage manager Arthur (Denis Haselwood), and wardrobe mistress Martha (Jen Lanz) to rehearse Cinderella. Her daughter Millicent Worthington (Monica Newsome) pluckily plays the lead role despite an early encounter with the Phantom that leaves her rather dazzled.
After Queen Victoria (Helen Grant) makes an appearance at the Whitechapel Theatre, things start to come undone like Millicent’s seams. Eric Von Schneider tries one too many moves on the talent – Daphne de Lace (Catie Macansh) – who refuses to go on if the dreaded Phantom makes an appearance.
The efforts required to convince this spectre that a fairytale is in fact a melodrama create a night of hilarous Cockney-themed comedy, proving that we all see things differently, even ghosts and queens!
If you were in the crowd, thanks for coming to support our show.
Phantom of the Music Hall, May-June 2021 by Deepwater Players
Deepwater School of Arts
Director: Richard Moon
Producer: Jen Lanz
Designer: Michael Burge
Choreographer: Lindy Alt
Stage Manager: Mari Grantun
Cast: Charlie Coldham, Helen Grant, Denis Haselwood, Jen Lanz, Catie Macansh, Chris McIntosh, Katie Newsome, Monica Newsome, Cath Wheatley, Michael Burge
Chorister and Soprano: Christine Davis
Featuring: Deepwater’s Cool Choir
Lights: Peter Sloman, Rob Wheatley, Jenny Sloman
Thanks to all behind-the-scenes, front-of-house, kitchen and bar staff and the Chapel Theatre Glen Innes for the loan of costumes, props and sets