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GALLERY: Star Struck ignites incredible performances… again

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Star Struck is in “a really great place”, according to operations manager Casey Horner, after the outstanding success of the extravaganza at the weekend.

The 31st edition of the sensational school spectacular, Ignite, proved as popular as ever at the Newcastle Entertainment Centre on Friday 16 and Saturday 17 June.

More than 3,500 dance and drama students from throughout the region strutted their stuff, along with 100 featured dancers; a 500-plus combined choir; 100 music pupils including vocalists, backing singers, orchestra members and rock bands; and in excess of 30 VET youngsters, who gained first-hand professional experience.

Star Struck Ignite was another hit at the Newcastle Entertainment Centre. Photo: Peter Stoop

“It went amazingly; really, really successful this year,” Ms Horner said.

“In fact, it was probably our biggest audience in a long time.

“And, obviously, our choir was a lot bigger than previously, too, up about 200 more students, so I’m very happy.

“Actually, I think COVID – and the subsequent restrictions that followed – helped us change the way we did things in the past.

“We now double cast the show, just as we did in 2021.

“So, that seems to have increased our audience as well, for whatever reason.

“Also, parents don’t have to drop kids off four times anymore… it’s only twice.

“Teachers aren’t having to do a day in a night, or two long days in a row, which can be exhausting.

“They’re just doing a show on one day and another on the next.

“I feel like everyone’s a lot more enthusiastic, so it certainly assists us.”

Star Struck Ignite garnered much praise for its inclusive and diverse program in 2023, with pupils from the Hunter and Central Coast revelling in their respective roles.

Ms Horner admitted the positive reaction was pleasing to hear.

“We opened with a celebration of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students with a ‘live’ Acknowledgement of Country delivered by featured songsters Summer Andrews and Symphony Riley from the Hunter School of Performing Arts (HSPA), which led into Great Southern Land,” she said.

“I really think that was a highlight.

“And, lots of people commented on just how beautiful it was.

“Another thing the audience noticed, and spoke to me about, was the quality and professionalism of the singers and the sound of the show this year.

“We had a bigger range of pupils in the vocal team, including quite a few primary kids.

“For me, that really created a nice dynamic that you were seeing children of all different ages on that stage singing, not just the older ones.

“I thought that was amazing.

There were smiles aplenty at Star Struck Ignite. Photo: Peter Stoop

“Although, I did love segment six, too, which featured the heroes and villains with the princesses, and the evil queen.

“I thought that was really clever.

“The little [Kindergarten] girls who were in the flowerpots for Little Patch of Heaven; they were just adorable and completely stole the show when they did an interview with the compere.

“I feel the entire program boasted great contrasting elements across the whole thing.”

Even though the curtain has closed on Star Struck for this season, Ms Horner and her cohorts will not get an opportunity to rest on their laurels.

Believe it or not, planning has already started for 2024.

“The creative team have been having ideas about that show since they started writing Ignite,” she told the Newcastle Weekly.

“It’s always a crossover.

“It is like ‘oh, that song won’t fit this year but maybe we could have it next year?’

“So, there always that thought process about 12 months down the track.

“But, we’ll be very busy for the next few weeks, too.

“We’ll go through some evaluations, listen to feedback from people and wrap up a lot of things financially before we get straight back into it.

“We tend to start vocal auditions at the end of term three, while the [vocal] team is usually selected early next year.

“So, preparation usually begins straight away; there’s not a lot of rest.”

And, Ms Horner expects the Star Struck juggernaut to continue.

“These days, it’s a really, really massive production,” she said.

“I mean, it’s been going for 31 years, so it is its own beast now.

“However, I truly believe it is building momentum again, which is amazing.

“Just before COVID and the pandemic, I think there was a little bit of a lull in regards to participation and support from sponsors… things like that.

“But, that’s certainly changed recently.

“We’re really starting to build that momentum again, so that’s particularly exciting for the future of Star Struck.”

Images: © Newcastle Weekly, Peter Stoop

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