The History of Holiday Actors
Holiday Actors had its beginnings in 1985 when a group of students from what was then CBC and St. Ann’s (now Emmanuel College) performed a production of Joseph and His Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. The idea to produce a summer show was developed by Philip Carmody and Elizabeth Senftleben as an extension of their two annual school musicals.
The following summer a cabaret version of The Boyfriend was performed at the Palais Theatre in Koroit Street. The inaugural meeting of Holiday Actors was held on 19 March 1986 and an advisory committee was elected.
Holiday Actors was incorporated in January 1987 to foster and encourage an interest in the performing arts for all young people aged 13 to 20 years from Warrnambool and surrounding districts. A major musical production has been staged each January for the last twenty one years.
The Holiday Actors Story
“No one is a star in our shows … it is a team effort and everyone has a part to play.” (Glenn Phillips, The Warrnambool Standard, 19 January 1990)
Towards the end of 1984 Holiday Actors came into being. Like a scene from a Judy Garland/Mickey Rooney movie, the idea ‘let’s put on a show’ was spontaneous. The simple plan to mount a production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at the end of January, having rehearsed during the summer holidays, was achieved.
The inspiration for the project came from two people: Catherine Sentfleben (music and drama teacher at CBC) and Merran Adams (music teacher, and conductor of the St Ann ’s Choir). Catherine’s daughter, Elizabeth, and Philip Carmody teamed up and the rest as they say “is history”. The following summer a cabaret version of The Boyfriend (1986) was produced and performed at the Palais Theatre. The inaugural meeting of Holiday Actors was held in 1986 which led to Holiday Actors being incorporated in January 1987.
Holiday Actors took to the stage again in May 1986 to the music of Gilbert and Sullivan’s sea-faring Pirates of Penzance. It was a roaring success. In the summer of 1987 Half a Sixpence made its way into the hearts and minds of its young cast.
Gilbert and Sullivan were tackled again in July 1987 with a cast of 45 performing Ruddigore. The success of Ruddigore spurred the cast and crew on and in January 1988 Holiday Actors showcased Roger’s and Hammerstein’s knee slapping Oklahoma , to the great delight of the audience. Holy Boy, the story of a shepherd boy who became King was told during a Christmas cantata in December 1988.
It is almost certain that any theatre company would jump at the chance of staging an Australian premiere, as Holiday Actors did in 1989 with the premiere of Tim Rice and Stephen Oliver’s Blondel. An enthusiastic cast experienced the challenge and excitement involved in producing a show, until then unseen by Australian theatre goers. With little more than the original cast album and a few stage directions to guide them, both cast and crew not only found it a challenge but after sell-out performances every night, an inspiration for their next production.
It had all started with Joseph in 1985, and five years later this rock opera once again tugged at our heart strings when it graced Warrnambool’s Performing Arts Centre to great applause. In 1991, a cast of 65, the largest yet, sang, danced and acted their way through On the Twentieth Century.
“The cast acted as seasoned performers… with ample enthusiasm and vigor in reserve…mingled with comedy and excellent harmonies.” (Fiona Welsh, The Warrnambool Standard, 25 January 1991)
Holiday Actors performed the hilarious How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying in 1992. The next year emotions ran deep when the group produced the wartime story Blitz. (1993) and long before Austin Powers there was The Wiz (1994), a hip, cool and groovy version of the Wizard of Oz. This production has long been remembered for its intense energy levels.
When Pippin opened on Broadway, it was very controversial due to its themes of love, sex and fulfillment. Although the 1995 Holiday Actors production was not quite as controversial, the talented cast made enough of a stir to make this production a huge success.
Director Paul Mair took on a production in 1996 that many said could not be performed by amateurs let alone a group of teenagers. Once again, Holiday Actors proved what an amazing group of young people they are, with a highly acclaimed production of the world famous Les Miserables.
“We expected to enjoy and be impressed by the efforts of our young group, but not to be totally captivated by such…a spell binding production…the array of talent on stage was equal to anything we have seen.” (Judy & Peter Reed, The Warrnambool Standard, January 1996).
Holiday Actors went through a difficult period in 1997, sadly Laurel Langdon, Holiday Actors’ matriarch, passed away and some of the dedicated members had become too old to participate in productions. Fortunately Holiday Actors know how to smile in the face of adversity and we put on the “all singing, all dancing, good old fashioned comedy show” (Director Rosanne Linton, The Standard,December 1997) Me and My Girl.
The exotic location of Baghdad was the setting for the 1998 production of Kismet. The lavish sets and costumes were definitely a highlight of this production. The classic MGM movie musical Singin’ in the Rain was the next production to be performed, in 1999, it was the general agreement of both cast and audience that Singin’ in the Rain was a triumph.
The girls have always outnumbered the guys in Holiday Actors, so in 2000 Guys and Dolls, a show that relies heavily on the male chorus seemed an odd choice. The directors scoured the streets and found an incredibly talented chorus of ‘guys’ to complement the amazing abilities of the ‘dolls’.
Oliver! was the perfect choice for Holiday Actors’ 2001 production as the catch line of the show “please sir, I want some more” is the cry that is heard after every Holiday Actors’ production. In 2002 Holiday Actors joined forces with everyone’s favourite talking Venus Flytrap to perform Little Shop of Horrors which was followed by the colourful 2003 production of Essgee’s The Mikado. Not only a favourite of the audience but along the way it won two Judge’s awards from the Victorian Music Theatre Guild.
2004 brought Warrnambool a little known musical My Favorite Year. Set in 1954, it was a beautiful, nostalgic show that has earned a special place in Holiday Actors’ history. And once again we caught the Victorian Music Theatre Guild Judges eyes with a Judges award for Katherine Moloney in her role as Alice Miller.
And so we come to our 20th year and The Music Man. Described as family entertainment at its best, The Music Man is a funny, nostalgic trip back to 1912 with big production numbers that will have you tapping your feet and humming songs long after the show is over. The Music Man is the perfect production to showcase the talent and professionalism of the amazing group of people who are Holiday Actors.
In mid 1984 the idea of forming a working theatre group involving the youth of Warrnambool and district, was little more than a dream held by a few. Today, Holiday Actors Inc. is more than a dream. It’s a vibrant, ongoing reality.
“Holiday Actors is a celebration of youth, and more than just an outlet for singin’ and dancin’ and the bright lights of the stage. Through Holiday Actors we find out who our real selves are.” (Jessica Ratcliff, Holiday Actors member 1989-1995)
Sit back, enjoy the show. We know we will and we look forward to sharing the next 20 years of Holiday Actors with you.
Written by Ann Phoebe, Emmalee Bell, Michael Williams and Phillip Carmody. Edited by Tracy Jennings.