Helpmann Awards 2013 – Celebrating Australian Art & Culture

A big surprise, unannounced to the attendees, Australia's international actor and producer Hugh Jackman appeared on stage at 2012 Helpmann Awards to present the award for the Best Musical

Wait! Yes? A brilliant idea! Yes! That’s what we need, a brilliant idea! * The men and women, who constitute our nation’s creative sector, embody a sense of daring and imagination as they pursue excellence, inspire innovation, and reveal their spirit and willingness to share their creative gifts with others. They have helped profoundly shape and uplift Australian society today.

We already have an impressive array of Australian talent on the international market, where we have become renowned as a nation of acclaimed artists and creators and have achieved a worldwide reputation for innovation and for being a culturally diverse nation. It’s a record we need to keep building on and expanding.

The arts are central to the continuing development of our cultural identity and so we need to celebrate our artists so that we can acknowledge and recognize the excellence of our cultural wealth. A strong arts and cultural sector provides important dividends on three very important levels; local, national and international.

Founded in 2001, the annual Live Performance Australia: Helpmann Awards recognises and rewards distinguished artistic achievement for ‘distinguished artistic achievement and excellence in the many disciplines of Australia’s vibrant live performance sectors’ in Australia. The Helpmann trophy is the artistic creation of internationally renowned silversmith Hendrik Forster a contemporary object whose design links past artists and audiences to those of the present day.

Live Performance Australia: Helpmann Awards are named in honour of one of Australia’s most admired, amazing and unique thespians of all time; the international stage; ballet dancer, actor, producer, director and choreographer Sir Robert (Bobby) Helpmann (1909-1986).

They also incorporate the JC Williamson Award for outstanding contribution to the Australian live performance industry. JC Williamson was an important theatrical company in Australia named for the American actor who later became Australia’s foremost theatrical manager from 1907 – 1976.

This year the JC Williamson Award will be presented to Australia’s Queen of Song, Kylie Minogue, who continues to make new moves in the music business she has been involved with since she was a teenager.

On Monday 24th June 2013 the award nominations for this year’s Helpmann Awards were announced for the first time simultaneously in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Hobart and Perth. There were 822 entries across 41 categories, which were meant an impressive list of finalists (see below).

The ‘Bobby’s’ are given for excellence in the categories of Cabaret, Theatre, Opera and Classical Music, Comedy, Musical Theatre, Industry Awards, Regional Touring, Contemporary Music, Dance and Physical Theatre. They seek to highlight and honour the performance industry that Helpmann not only loved with a passion, but also one that continually innovates the creativity of Australians, giving them an opportunity to excel, while giving many others a great deal of pleasure.

This year’s ceremony will be held on Monday 29th July 2013 at the Sydney Opera House. It will be hosted by renowned multi talented performer Eddie Perfect and musical theatre and cabaret singer Christie Whelan Browne and broadcast on Foxtel’s Arena network, although not live?

A Special Event Award has been announced.  White Night Melbourne, Victorian Major Events Company on behalf of the State Government of Victoria will be given an award for Outstanding Theatrical Achievement: for the design, creation and operation of King Kong – the creature

The Industry Awards Panel and Helpmann Awards Administration Committee felt strongly that this all-new ground breaking Australian creation, the first of its kind in the world, was worthy of individual recognition and so it was added.

King Kong also received eight additional nominations based only on its impressive previews causing a lot of controversy, which makes for good publicity if not anything else.

It also highlighted the importance of emerging and converging technologies, which are transforming stage experience today,

Just as stage machinery was an innovation back in the day when Italian polymath Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) and England’s multi talented genius Inigo Jones (1573-1652) were working for great families, digital based media has now become an important aspect of Australians experiencing the arts over the last decade. It will become increasingly integral to future productions.

Establishing a successful digital platform will also ensure that Australian creative people can continue to work across international markets, delivering a product that will appeal as it crosses previous barriers of culture and communicating well within a global community.

Other shows just like King Kong received multiple nominations; The Sydney Theatre Company’s production of the Kate Grenville Novel The Secret River picked up an impressive eleven nominations, Legally Blonde the Musical, eight nominations, along with The Addams Family, which despite being a great production my Sydney friends tell me, closed early.

The South Australia’s Windmill Theatre picked up six nominations for its ‘rites-of passage’ play School Dance and the unreservedly hilarious, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum in which Geoffrey Rush gave a punchy power-packed performance, only four.

Decidedly politically incorrect, the delicious bawdy musical farce A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum has many happy memories for my own formative introduction to the theatre back in the 60’s. Set in an ancient Rome, that none of those involved at the time would recognize, it’s a perfectly pitched satirical piece, whose luscious lines can also easily adapted to reflect the political circus of any place and in any age.

Christine Anu, Gyton Grantley, Teddy Tahu Rhodes and Lisa McCune in South Pacific. Image by Kurt Sneddon

It was not surprising to see Opera Australia’s South Pacific production in there with a chance. It is the most successful production it has ever staged amazingly, also not bad for a revival. However it was very sad not to see any of the artists involved Lisa McCune, Eddie Perfect, Kate Ceberano and Teddy Tahu Rhodes being successful nominees

Would seem to be a major oversight for those who enjoyed and experienced this outstanding production on stage. Superlatives would not be enough to heap on all those involved.

Hobart Baroque Launch - Jarrod Carland, Lara Giddings, Madeleine Pierard, Leo Schofield

This year nominees also include artistic director Leo Schofield’s Tasmanian based festival Hobart Baroque, which received two nominations for BEST OPERA (L’isola disabitata – Royal Opera House) and BEST DIRECTION OF AN OPERA (L’isola disabitata – Rodula Gaitanou), an excellent result for a first time festival for our southern most happy isle.

Hobart Baroque Executive Director, Jarrod Carland said in accepting the nomination “Hobart Baroque enjoyed great success in its inaugural year, with the Royal Opera House’s production of L’isola disabitata receiving rave reviews and impressive mainland attendance figures of close to 30% coming from interstate for the event.

He also said “We’re extremely proud of all we achieved in our inaugural year with Hobart Baroque. Our nominations at the Helpmann Awards highlight the world-class standard of entertainment that was part of the festival. We look forward to Hobart Baroque growing into an international festival of modest size but major international importance,” said Carland.

Tours by popular groups such as Coldplay, Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band, Gotye and Keith Urban means that concert promoters will also battle it out in the local and international live music categories.

Barry Gibb’s sold out Mythology tour, which was a tribute to the evolution of popular music, is in with a chance, and the Best Contemporary Music Festival category features The 24th Annual Bluesfest Byron Bay, The Falls Music & Arts Festival, The Laneway Music Festival 2013 as well as Vivid Live 2012.

The Best Comedy Performer category includes sterling performances by Wil Anderson, Hannah Gadsby, Kitty Flanagan and Julia Morris, the latter proving such a great hit on Channel 9’s popular television show ‘House Husbands’ which is all about the quality of parenting, not gender stereotypes.

It is fitting that the awards for performance art are named for that unique of all performance artists, the very individual, unique Sir Robert Helpmann.

After an amazing international career ‘Bobby’ Helpmann returned to Australia in the 50’s and again in the 60’s, re-inventing himself and appearing in great theatrical plays, amazing ballet performances, choreographing new works and generally assisting the newly founded Australian Ballet to flourish.

A restless jet setter, Bobby forayed back and forth from Europe for 20+ years keeping relevant and in touch with all his influential contacts, who supported his quest to bring the Australian Ballet to international touring prominence at an early stage in its development.

My children all knew him as the ‘child catcher’ from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, which incidentally despite having ‘audiences and critics’ raving last year, only received one nomination for best supporting role in a musical for Jennifer Vuletic.

When he died in 1986 the spotlight that had fallen on him for so long during his varied, interesting and truly incredible career for over 70 + years of his life might have gone out, to some extent, but it remained as an always illuminating legacy for the following generation of artists to draw upon.

His landmark role as Don Quixote for the Australian Ballet and the now famous film of it made by Rudolf Nureyev, ensured ‘Bobby’s’ memory would persist long after his final curtain call. Now with the premiere awards in performance art named for him, his legendary status is assured, honouring all those artists who ‘do us proud’.

The brilliance and diversity of the arts per se in Australia empowers people of all cultures and communities to come together to communicate and help create an environment that is enriching in the way we live in it and deal with each other.

Developing a relationship with the imagery of the world in which we live is part of our life long learning process.

Culture in its fullest sense is about who we really are and that includes reflecting our collective stories, traditions and beliefs.

Our creative expression defines us and is also extremely valuable, providing an ongoing social and economic dividend for those who invest in Australia’s creative potential

Chief Executive, Evelyn Richardson, said “The Helpmann Awards are the pinnacle ‘night of nights’ event for our industry, recognizing the very best in live performances that annually attract over 17 million people to shows across the country with revenues topping $1.3 billion” – numbers that cannot be ignored by any government now or in the future.

The Australian National Cultural Policy as I understand it, has recently been established finally, and with the very real contribution and help of the arts industry, ‘informed by the belief that a creative nation is a productive nation in the fullest sense of the word; empathic, respectful, imaginative, industrious, adaptive, open and successful’.

It’s all about providing jobs, aiding prosperity, expanding opportunity and contributing toward us being a competitive and confident nation.

I may be wrong, but I cannot see the Federal Government’s name on the list of supporters for this important national initiative on their website – or indeed the names of any other State Government bodies, except for NSW?

Perhaps someone would be kind enough to enlighten me – why?

The Live Performance Australia: Helpmann Awards are contributing towards building our economy and reflecting the richness of our Australian identity.

Surely it is about time our Federal Government added its name to those already up in lights?

If it was actively and monetarily involved, not just espousing theories through print media, on websites or in their political rhetoric, it would demonstrate far more clearly their real commitment.

What they expect from everyone else should be mandatory.

Helpmann Awards current sponsors and supporters are not just talking about helping, they are investing their time, energy and money actively in Australian arts and culture.

Surely, they are the ones who deserve the wildest applause [clap clap], and perhaps a mini ‘Bobby’?

Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle 2013

*Quote: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

Note: Live Performance Australia (LPA) is the trading name of the Australian Entertainment Industry Association (AEIA), which was founded in 1917.

The Helpmann Awards 2013

On Stage – Sydney Opera House
Bennelong Point, Sydney

Monday 29th July

Download – Helpmann Award Finalists 2013


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