This Year of Grace

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Published: 29th August, 2017

It’s a rare and exciting experience to be involved in bringing to life a brand new piece of music theatre. And it’s even more thrilling when you see early on that it has a real magic about it, and when you watch a group of ordinary Australian teenagers bring it off the page to life in the theatre.

That’s the story behind the new work Grace: the Musical, being performed by Year 10-12 students at Huntingtower School in Mount Waverley this week.

This talented group of secondary students knows how lucky they are to get the rare opportunity to create history by performing a brand new Australian musical written especially for them.

They may never again have the chance to be the first person ever to create the characters of Grace, the girl blessed with a voice and an ability to write and perform her own songs, but cursed with teenage insecurity and lack of confidence in her own ability. Or Kayla, the glamorous blonde bombshell best friend, who Grace would love to be, until eventually she discovers that life isn’t a bed of roses for Kayla, who would also like to be someone else! Then there is Sarah, confined to a wheelchair by cerebral palsy, but with more chutzpah and street smarts than most of us are blessed with. Add Sam, the nerdy kid with a heart of gold and a quiet passion for Grace, and Sebastian, the class loudmouth with boofhead tendencies, and you have a class recognizable to most teachers who have a few years of experience.

The story takes all the characters on a journey, as Grace learns to channel her yearning into taking a risk to showcase her talent, thanks to the support of most of her peers. 

The reason Grace: the Musica works is that it’s written by someone who knows just what he is writing about. Director Daniel Borbely, Drama Coordinator of Huntingtower School, has unleashed his talents as a playwright and composer, having written the show, with assistance with musical arrangements from industry professionals Angel P. Y. Wong and Kate Gould. It’s performed to piano accompaniment from Huntingtower director of music Lynley Bramble, in the intimate surrounds of the Huntingtower Drama Studio, as the school is in the midst of building a state-of-the-art new performing arts centre.

Now to the disclaimer – how do I know so much about it? For the past couple of months I have had the pleasure of seeing these kids embrace the show and bring it to life in a wonderful way, in my role as drama coach assisting director Borbely.

As one teacher who observed a recent rehearsal commented “In 30 years of teaching I have taught each one of the leads here – this just rings so true!”

And that is the strength of Grace: the Musical – it is a musical with heart and soul that has an authenticity that reaches out to the audience.

It stars Leah Felsbourg in the lead role of Grace, Sophie Cookson as Sarah, Laeticia Garrett as Kayla, Felix Gould as Sam and Emmanuel Papastamatisas as Sebastian, with a small chorus of Huntingtower Senior School students.

I have been involved in the arts industry for several decades, and to have had the privilege of helping bring a brand new Australian work to life is one of the most special experiences I will ever have.

If you are curious to see what has moved me so greatly, Grace: the Musical will be performed at the Huntingtower School Drama Studio, 77 Waimarie Drive, Mt Waverley from Wednesday  August 30 until Saturday  September 2 at 7.30 pm. Bookings through trybooking.com and more information can be found at www.huntingtower.vic.edu.au