There have been over 100 productions at the Earl Arts Centre over the past 25 years, and artistic director Greg Leong and 25 Years at the Earl show director Danny Gibson said they struggled to pick 25 that encapsulate what makes this community theatre so special. Nevertheless, they selected the following performances as a spread of stand-out shows over the past quarter-century, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the venue.
1993 – 2018, Launceston Competitions Association.
Danny Gibson: Launceston Competitions have been consecutively here for the past 25 years. This is one of their homes, particularly for music and drama.
1993, Nunsense, the Launceston Players
Danny Gibson: This was the first full-blown production of a musical staged in the venue. It was a wonderful, fun musical with local performers.
Greg Leong: This was the first thing I saw at the Earl Arts Centre. It was a wonderful production, with a lot of the stalwarts of the Launceston theatre community. I remember being absolutely enchanted by the space and by the performance.
1994, Telemachus Clay, Three River Theatre
Danny Gibson: A very high-standard production which set the beginning for straight theatre being staged here.
1997, Into The Woods, the Launceston Players
Danny Gibson:Into the Woods was a beautiful, beautiful production, a Sondheim musical directed by Jeff Hockley. It transformed the Earl Arts Centre. There were camouflage nets everywhere. It showed that a full-blown musical could be staged very successfully in the space.
Greg Leong: Indeed, it was a precursor to so many transformations at the Earl Arts Centre. Although it’s not included in this list, Sweeney Todd some years later, by Encore Theatre Company, did exactly the same thing. You wouldn’t think that a theatre without flys, without wings, without a backstage, could accommodate these productions, which were really, really complex.
1998, The North, William Yang
Greg Leong: William Yang was a personal friend of mine, a Chinese-Australian man, and he was the person who turned the snapshot into an art form. The North is about his uncle, who was killed by a Russian cane-cutter. A really powerful monologue with accompanying photography, and I’m so glad that Theatre North put that show on.
1999, An Inspector Calls, Three River Theatre
Danny Gibson: I didn’t see this one, but I have seen it’s beautifully hand-drawn poster. It’s another offering in that straight theatre genre, which of course Three River Theatre do so well, and the poster and indeed the photographs are a legacy.
2001, The Carer, Bay Street Productions
Greg Leong: This one was selected because it starred Bud Tingwell, who was one of the stars of Australian stage and screen.
2002, Milo's Wake, La Boite
Greg Leong: This one was the choice of general manager Mandy Shepherd - it caused a huge sensation.
2004, The Tank, Salamanca Arts Centre
Greg Leong: One of the reasons we chose this one is because it’s important that all of the state’s professional theatre companies also use this space, such as [Hobart’s] Salamanca Theatre.
2006, Jackie French's Hitler's Daughter, Monkey Baa Theatre Company
Danny Gibson: Monkey Baa Theatre have a long history of being included in the subscription season, and that’s mainly because of the outstanding standard of what they present. They enthrall young audiences - young and old alike, in fact.
2008, Cross, Mudlark Theatre
Jane Johnson, who starred in the show: Cross was one of those really special experiences theatrically. It was one of the shows you pour your heart, soul and everything into. Mudlark was really just starting its journey, and I get emotional even just talking about it - it was a really special work in our canon.
2009, I am My Own Wife, Tasmanian Theatre Company
Greg Leong: This show won lots of prizes in New York on Broadway. It was a one-man show starring one of the great actors of Tasmania, Robert Jarman, who played 37 characters - and very convincingly.
2011, Boats, Terrapin Puppet Theatre
Danny Gibson:Boats was a beautiful, beautiful, beautiful production. It had a wonderful story, but the scenic elements were quite mesmerising.
2011, ‘Allo ‘Allo, Encore Theatre Company
Danny Gibson: Encore had a number of British comedies in the space, and ‘Allo ‘Allo was perhaps the most well-received. Special mention to Ross Marsden, who played Rene in that production, he did a wonderful job.
2012, Amadeus, Launceston Players
Danny Gibson: The Launceston Players pop up all through the 25 year history of the Earl, and Amadeus was a particularly special production. Very significant was that Ray Sangston, who is one of those name who is synonymous with local theatre, played the lead role. That was the last significant job that he played, and I think everyone would agree that he did an outstanding job.
2012, Avenue Q, Launceston Musical Society
Danny Gibson:Avenue Q was a fun, fabulous production, especially remembered for the spectacular inclusion of puppets.
2014, A Christmas Carol, Launceston Youth Theatre Ensemble
Danny Gibson: Some very talented young people brought this classic text to life.
2014, The Vicar of Dibley, Encore Theatre Company
Greg Leong: Danny won an award for this one. They had a two-part set, and one set was always light and the other one was always dark, it was masterful lighting. Very creative.
2015, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Just Imagine Youth Drama School
Danny Gibson: Just Imagine Youth Drama School are just about to celebrate their ten-year anniversary. They do a lovely job in encouraging young people to develop their theatre interest, and develop skills for the stage and for life.
2016, Twelve Angry Men, Three River Theatre
Danny Gibson:Twelve Angry Men won a significant number of awards. For me, the most beautiful thing about it was that it was an enemble piece. That means everyone working together as a very strong team. No real lead roles, just everyone carrying the text.
2016, Evolve/Revolve, Tasdance
Greg Leong: A funny story about this one is that the founding director of Tasdance, a woman called Jenny Kinder, went up to our director and said, ‘will you have a sprung floor? Because it’s very important for our dancers.’ Our director, who had absolutely no idea what a sprung floor was let alone whether or not they could afford one, immediately said, ‘yes, of course it will!’ And they did get a sprung floor.
2017, Blood Brothers, Encore Theatre Company
Danny Gibson: Last year’s production of Blood Brothers really demonstrates the scale of large-scale musicals that Encore is capable of putting on in the space.
2017, Exposing Edith, Michaela Burger
Greg Leong:Exposing Edith was a time when we had Ten Days on the Island festival here, and Theatre North hosted a fringe program. I found this wonderful singing actress Michaela Burger who wrote her own shows, and in this one she told the story of famed French songstress Edith Piaf. It was one of the most outstanding professional productions we’ve had.
2017, 9 – 5 The Musical, and 2018, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Launceston Musical Society
Danny Gibson: In the last few years the LMS has found a real niche in being able to present musicals here in this space with relatively large casts, showcasing excellent music, drama, and dance.
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