2017 Helpmann AwardsLeft – Winner of the Best Male Actor in a Musical Award, Callum Francis

This year the annual Helpmann Awards moved to the Capitol Theatre in Sydney. A wise choice, as most people I chatted with thought it a more atmospheric venue and said they enjoyed it far more than previous years. It was on the whole a slick, well timed event, running smoothly to meet the demands of the live televised coverage on Foxtel. Although this year it will also be able to be viewed on ABC/ Iview apparently. Live Performance Australia who organise the event are celebrating their centenary year of operation and the evening was a fitting tribute to their legacy.

The hosts were marvelous, Tim Draxl was suave and handsome as expected, and his partner in crime Jan van de Stool bubbled with charming vulgarity. The alter ego of stage goddess Queenie van der Zandt, the international music therapist from Woy Woy managed to walk the fine line between insult and compliment – essential for an awards host – with practiced aplomb. And there was a witty warm up from Director and co Script Consultant Jonathan Biggins that set a lovely insouciant tone for the evening.

The Kinky Boots company hosted the event on a set that was perhaps too industrial for the event, but with a fine red curtain that whooshed in on occasion to add the prerequisite splash of theatricality. They opened the show with ‘Sex is in the Heel’ performed by the company with the immensely talented Callum Francis who later took out the evenings ‘Bobby’ for Best Male Actor in a Musical.

Other performances from the nominated Musicals peppered the awards throughout the night, and were well timed to break up the repetitive nature that is part and parcel of any awards event. Although 3 hours without an interval does rather numb the buttocks, no matter how well structured the evening.

However despite very strong competition from these musicals, the performance highlight of the evening was by far the Australian Dance Theatres performance of an excerpt from construct directed and co choreographed by the late Tanja Leidtke. Well observed, funny and quite moving at the same time, the excerpt drew gasps from the audience as deceptively simple moves were executed with immense control and strength by Kimball Wong, Jana Castillo and Marlo Benjamin. It looks like a show not to be missed.

It was nice to see Australian works holding their own against imports, and while The Book of Mormon deservedly won best musical, it was wonderful to see such great pieces such as Jasper Jones, Hot Brown Honey and The Drover’s Wife recognized frequently too. I won’t replicate the length of the evening in print by naming all the winners here – you can Google that easily enough.

And there were lovely heartfelt introductions and speeches for the JC Williamson and Sue Nattrass Award winners – Richard Tognetti AO and Rob Brookman AM respectively.

But lets face it – there were a whole lot of people just dying to walk around and show of some very expensive couture. So the after party held at the Hyatt Grand Ballroom was the destination in mind for many of these. A bus is never the most glamorous entrance to make, but it was carried off with aplomb for the most part by partygoers. I saw only one beautiful talented actress injured by a heel-trapping broken paving stone. A disappointing end to the evening at the hands of bad maintenance.  

Everyone else fought for drinks at the tiny bar, chomped cheddar and figs from teetering cheese boards, and networked their socks – or stockings – off. All in all, it was everything a Monday night awards event is expected to be.


You can view the full list of winners from the 2017 Helpmann Awards here»

The 2017 Helpmann Awards will air Sunday 30 July at 9.30pm on ABC

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