Defying Gravity: The Songs Of Stephen Schwartz at the Theatre Royal, Sydney
Musical theatre fans in Australia got a bit of a treat over the weekend - some would probably say it was the equivalent of a visit from the Pope, or the Queen; or possibly both at the same time.
Composer Stephen Schwartz was in town for Defying Gravity, a concert tribute to his career, featuring stars from around the globe - all here specially for the event.
We had two-time Tony award winner Sutton Foster, film and stage star Aaron Tveit, global performer Joanna Ampil, and top Australian exports David Harris and Helen Dallimore - but the biggest coup had to be the amazing Betty Buckley, 'The Voice Of Broadway', whose work with Schwartz goes back as far as Pippin in the early Seventies.
I was contacted late last year by the producer, the delightful Enda Markey, about photographing the weekend for him, and of course was happy to help. Dress rehearsal was in the late afternoon, and he'd need images for reviewers by the time the evening performance got out; so the schedule was tight, but not impossible.
Not having worked in the Theatre Royal before, I wanted to make sure I had the right equipment for the job; so I got an extra lens from Canon Australia for the weekend to make sure I had a bit more reach available in the theatre if needed.
The weekend was fantastic, and featured some great treats for Stephen Schwartz fans. Early versions of songs that got rewritten later beyond all recognition, songs from musicals that never happened (like Houdini, starring Hugh Jackman) and some back story on Godspell - it was inspired during a visit to my old home town Toronto, by a musical starring Canadian magician Doug Henning!? (I would never have guessed THAT!) And Betty Buckley sang 'Meadowlark', which was from a musical written with her in mind, which she then auditioned for and DIDN'T get the role. And of course, all performed by amazing talents at the top of their game, with a live orchestra on stage to accompany them.
I was pretty happy with the results I came back with - but see what you think, here are a few of my favourites:
Along with the concert, there was also a conversation between Leigh Sales and Stephen to cover on Saturday afternoon, which meant I was waiting backstage again the following day - and both Betty Buckley and Stephen Schwartz stopped individually to tell me, in great detail, how wonderful they thought the images I'd captured at dress rehearsal were.
I was stunned - as Stephen pointed out, he's been doing this for over forty years and has seen a LOT of production stills in that time; but as he put it, "you made everybody look great, in every single photo - I don't know how you're doing it, but keep it up!"
So thanks to Stephen and Betty for their extremely kind words, and to Enda for putting the event on - and I'll certainly try!