Spotlight’s on The Phantom again

By Ivy Jensen

ECHUCA-MOAMA Theatre Company’s production of The Phantom of the Opera has taken out two gongs in this year’s Georgy Awards.

Sophie Miller won best female singer for her portrayal as Christine Daaé, while Murray Ross and his team took home the Georgy for excellence in artistic design for their work on the Proscenium Arch.

Not surprisingly, the late Paul Denham — who died before the second last show of Phantom — was an inspiration to both.

Sophie, 20, said she felt blessed to receive the award from the local theatre legend’s family.

‘‘Phantom was a big chunk of my life, an experience I’ll never forget so winning a Georgy award for a musical I keep close to my heart was extremely special for me,’’ she said.

‘‘One of the last things Paul said to me was ‘Sophie, the world needs to hear your voice. Promise me that they will hear it’.

‘‘Afterwards he told me to go win him a Georgy award so I’d say he’d be quite proud.’’

Murray said Paul had given so much to EMTC and was terribly missed.

‘‘I would like to thank EMTC who over the years have given me the opportunity to be creative, to work with very talented people at the group, in particular my friend and mentor to many young and old performers, the legend Paul Denham,’’ he said.

The Tongala artist said it was a team effort to construct the design of the Baroque Proscenium Arch used in Phantom.

‘‘Kevin Copp and Kevin Simpson and the two positive directors made it happen and it did look rather special,’’ he said.

‘‘It is created outside the curtain on stage with two theatre boxes used in the production.’’

Murray said back projections had changed stage sets, with no more big hand-painted backdrops.

‘‘However, centre stage three-dimensional structures still must be made for actors to use. It’s also very hard to project a Proscenium Arch so we made one.’’

With six ‘‘excellent nominations in the design excellence award’’, Murray said he was honoured to win the Georgy.

‘‘I was never really anticipating getting the gong, but elated that I did,’’ he said.

‘‘I’ve had nominations in the Victorian Theatre Guild, but I think to win the local community theatre Georgy Award is just simply amazing.’’

Attending the awards on Saturday night, Murray said he was amazed at the number of theatre groups, school productions, community acting and singing groups in the Goulburn Valley.

‘‘The number of individuals involved in these groups who obviously relish the opportunity to perform or work back stage form a unique friendship and the opportunity to grow their skills,’’ he said.

Other honours went to Echuca’s Bridget Morrison, 25, who won the Elaine Tonks Award for best female support in a play for her portrayal of Rose in STAG’s production of Orson Welles and the Mercury Theatre; and Nathalia’s St Mary of the Angels student Digby Bunnett who took out best male junior performance as Man in Chair in The Drowsy Chaperone.

In Dillmac’s production of Shrek Jr, Sam Clydesdale won a judges award for his role as Lord Farquaad.