Pianist Jack Earle performs at the Rob Guest Endowment gala in Sydney.

From a pool of over 300 applicants who auditioned, six performers were chosen to perform at the Rob Guest Endowment Gala this past Monday - and I was there once again as their official photographer to document the night.

Last year was my first time at the gala event, and I have to say I was impressed - the quality of performances from guest artists from shows currently playing in Sydney, and from the six finalists, were absolutely top notch. Considering there's very little opportunity to rehearse with the band before the event (much less have technical rehearsals, on the borrowed set of Dream Lover for the night), it's an incredibly smooth & slick production they put on.

So I knew, going back this year, that it'd be something to see once again; and it certainly didn't disappoint.

From my point of view, I felt like I'd been a bit cautious last year, my first time working on the event. I didn't really know yet how the show worked, so I didn't move around the theatre as much as I might otherwise have done - because I didn't want to be changing location, and miss something crucial on stage.

This time I could anticipate a bit more, and I knew the Lyric Theatre a little better as well; so I arrived early, introduced myself to the ushers around the venue, found the shortest route from the balcony to the stalls, and pre-planned a few angles to place myself at during the show so I could mix it up over the course of the evening, without being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and without disturbing the audience enjoying the performances.

And wow, what performances they were! With music from pretty much any era, the finalists showed their range as performers all night, kicking off with a choreographed group number before doing a scene and two contrasting songs of their choice.

I'm not well versed in musical theatre history myself, so (as was the case in 2015) a number of songs were completely new to me, but that didn't make them any less engaging; and some were classics, which seems like a brave choice to make in this sort of situation, putting yourself up against iconic stage & screen performances from shows like Chicago or Oliver - especially with such limited time to rehearse in the space, and with the band.

But of course, in the end, the judges had to choose a winner from the final six on the night...

Finalists Matthew Predny, Hilary Cole, Linden Furnell, Stefanie Jones, Du Toit Bredenkamp and Genevieve Kingsford.

So congratulations, Linden - and I look forward to photographing you again as part of your prize package!

Rob Guest Endowment 2016 winner Linden Furnell.

Check out the Rob Guest Endowment's Facebook gallery for more images, too - there were plenty to choose from, so the ones I've included here are almost entirely different to the ones they've posted!

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