Chris KabayWhen I spoke to Chris Kabay, the Artistic Director and co-founder of Yellow Glass Theatre, on the eve of the inaugural Young Artist’s Program cabaret show, Green! Gold! and Musical!, he was strangely calm. Although it’s been a good decade since my own ‘bump-in’ days, the bedlam that usually accompanies such eves is not quickly forgotten. Clearly the first group of young performers is pulling their weight.

Kabay exuded enthusiasm for the new troupe of young performers, all aged between 18 and 25, when he explained how the idea for the Program began. When auditioning at the beginning of the year, he came across young performers with talent, energy and determination, but in need of more experience.  Kabay is a firm believer that, in terms of gaining experience in the industry, the process of mounting a production is ultimately more important than the performance aspect. “All of the young performers in the Program have done the certificate course in music theatre at WAAPA and certainly have the talent required, but across the board, were lacking in experience. On top of that,” says Kabay, “not everyone is going to be a performer.” In this vein, he and Yellow Glass Musical Director and co-founder, Simon Holt, have stepped back, allowing the group to take responsibility for the entire production, from directing to working out how to write a media release. For director Ruth Wilkin, 23, Green! Gold! and Musical! will mark her directorial debut.

The cast for the show, which comprises Kathleen Douglas, Danielle Grills, Simon Loughton, Ben Doncon and Gareth Walsh, chose the songs themselves. Kabay and Holt asked them to go away and research Australian musicals – not an easy task by any account – and then come back with what they had and find an integral theme. The notion of what makes us Australian, and what makes us proud, emerged from the process as the key theme for the show. “It’s a fun show, with some really cool moments,” says Kabay, who’s passionate about bringing what’s ‘out there’ in the Australian music theatre scene to Perth, which he feels often misses out.

One of Kabay’s hopes for the Program is that the young artists involved really get a chance to get their hands dirty. “There comes a time for young performers when they have to stop auditioning and start doing, and I’m hoping that this will be a good avenue for them to do that.” In terms of the overall experience, Kabay is hopeful that it will be an inspiring one: “At the most extreme I would love to inspire them to go out tomorrow and create a new music theatre company producing quality musical theatre.” When I asked him if this might put him out of business, his congenial laugh echoed down the phone, “Ha! We need the competition, bring it on!”
{xtypo_quote_right}There comes a time for young performers when they have to stop auditioning and start doing, and I’m hoping that this will be a good avenue for them to do that{/xtypo_quote_right}
Having seen Green! Gold! and Musical! on opening night I can only agree with Kabay about it being a fun show by a talented group of dedicated young performers. I spoke to  Musical Director, Izaak Lim, (just 19, and one of the stand-out performers from the recent Yellow Glass production, Into The Woods), after the performance and asked him if he enjoyed the process and if he’d do it again. “I loved the process. Simon (Holt) was incredibly supportive and didn’t interfere with my own fledgling process. Absolutely, I’d do it again!”

When asked if likely to continue the Program, I could hear the smile in Kabay’s reply. “Yes, hopefully, as there’s been a lot of interest. We hope to do a show like this annually, and ideally we’ll get them to work on a professional show with us so they can see that it’s not all about the performance.” After chatting about the process of having the young group do the whole show themselves it was clear where the wry smile was coming from. “I’d forgotten that the Gen-Y attitudes are a little different to ours…” He didn’t elaborate except to say that, despite the relative calm, he and Holt were doing a little more than they’d expected to.

Kabay certainly isn’t a stranger to hard work. Yellow Glass (the company who brought us Rent with Nikki Webster and Anthony Callea last year), has been a success since its inception in 2002. This success hasn’t been a big surprise for Kabay, who saw the need for a music theatre company in Perth willing to take risks. Both he and Holt are as keen about new works as they are in resurrecting some old and rarely performed numbers, which has become something of a trademark of the company. “Simon is always looking for new stuff, and with the internet it’s easy to connect with new composers all around the world.” I Sing, performed by the company in 2006, was the first production of this show outside the United States. “The young guys [composers] from New York were thrilled that someone here wanted to do their show.”

Green! Gold! And Musical! | yellow glass theatre inc Perhaps the same thing will happen with Kabay’s own musical, The Travelling, showing at The Blue Room in September. This is another show with an Australian theme. Based on the opera Pagliacci, it’s a story about a family of entertainers in a 1950s country town. “It’s a show about the blurred line between reality and art, so it’s quite relevant at the moment” says Kabay.

Green! Gold! and Musical! is now playing. For further information, click here»

Top Right - yellow glass theatre's Artistic Director, Chris Kabay
Bottom Right - Green! Gold! and Musical!. Photo - Andrew Jamieson

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