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Wednesday, 2 June 2010
Page: 5045

Mr LINDSAY (7:50 PM) —Kirwan State High School has done it again! Last week the school continued its tradition of outstanding musical entertainment with an astonishingly good production of The Pirates of Penzance. All performances deservedly received standing ovations from enthusiastic audiences. This was the best school production that I have ever attended—and I have seen many. It was an ambitious production, but the school pulled it off—and then some. Reminiscent of the Simon Gallaher and Jon English production of the mid-90s, these high school students wowed audiences for each of their three performances.

There were always three areas which needed to be tackled to make this show such a success—firstly, the comedy. Gilbert and Sullivan is no easy task and requires innovative staging and phenomenal acting, both of which Kirwan provided. The cast were so very believable in their respective roles and all played the part as well as any seasoned Broadway actor. Secondly, there is the music. The music in Pirates is challenging for many reasons. Whether it be the operatic range it requires of the lead female, Mabel, or the tricky harmonies of the three sisters and the chorus, or just the sheer tempo of the Major-General’s song, it was obvious on the night that the kids had rehearsed relentlessly. Coupled with a fantastic orchestra made up of teachers, ex-students and students, Kirwan musically delivered the production. Finally, there is the cast itself. With around 100 students from ages 13 to 17 in the cast, it was amazing that the stage never seemed too crowded or busy. It is also important to note that I think no student ever felt insignificant in the cast, with everyone taking on the role of a daughter, pirate or police officer with great conviction.

The Kirwan High tradition was established in 1984; 23 shows later, young second-year drama teacher Daniel Last has excelled in his first job as director with an outstanding production of Pirates. The chief architect of the show was Andrew Higgins, a maths teacher and year 12 coordinator, who has now produced a show for Kirwan High annually for the last 13 years. Andrew was ably assisted by vocal director and teacher Suellen Johns, who was a Kirwan High student herself in 1996. Musical director and Head of the Arts at Kirwan High, Dale Hosking, is also a Kirwan High graduate from 2000.

Of course a great show like Pirates needs a great choreographer. Dance teacher Chris Davis did this job to perfection. Many parents also supported the production. Anne Sperring’s son Adam was in Dazzle in 1998. She became involved in hair, make-up and costumes and has continued every year since. Her last child Rebecca graduates at the end of this year. Her contribution every Sunday for three months of the year epitomises the contribution of many parent supporters.

Pirates of Penzance provided the perfect vehicle for outstanding student talent. It was led by superb soprano Samantha Coleman whose pure voice was perfect for the role of Mabel. Debonair Matthew Ritchie was charismatic as Frederick while Eli Thaiday, a young Torres Strait Islander man whose brother Sam has made a name playing for the Broncos, was a swashbuckling Pirate King. No-one in the audience will forget his chest! The comical James Gilbert played the eccentric Major General role to perfection while Tula Clutterbuck was a feisty Ruth. It is rare for the actors, music, dance, lighting, set and costumes to complement one another to produce such an outstanding result. This was a great testament to just how good state schools can be and it inspires confidence in our youth and our future.

After the show a parent of one of the students proudly said this:

From a parent’s point of view, our son put in hours and hours night and day—before school, after school, sometimes all day. All the kids did, and it was just an extraordinary effort by all of them.

Just talking to our kids after the show, it was just one of those productions where the people who played the characters made them their own. And the ability to draw the entire auditorium, the entire theatre, into the show was extraordinary. Even the band was included in the stage theatre, which was really quite amazing.

It was a one in a million production, and a one in a million experience for the kids.

Tops to the teachers and tops to the students, Pirates of Penzance was a production which reinforced the fact that music is a language which breaks all barriers, bringing students from all demographics to participate, and brought anyone who saw the show to a side-splitting chuckle! Well done, Kirwan High!