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GALLERY: Stars shine for 45th annual CONDA Awards

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The region’s stars, from performers to directors, definitely shone at the 45th annual CONDA Awards at the weekend.

Theatre-lovers converged on Newcastle City Hall on Saturday 9 December to celebrate the latest edition of the extravaganza, presented by the City of Newcastle Drama Association (CONDA), as well as countless achievements throughout the year.

And, it was a tough task for the six judges to separate the 61 productions they witnessed, at venues from Maitland and Speers Point to the Newcastle CBD, in order to select the winners in 27 categories.

But, in the end, Knock And Run Theatre’s Ideation collected Best Dramatic Production, while Chookas Entertainment walked away with the Best Musical Production for Heathers.

Excellence by a Music or Vocal Director went to Daniel Wilson for The Very Popular Theatre Company’s Billy Elliot The Musical, the Young People’s Theatre Newcastle Inc’s Riley McLean took out Excellence by a Director – Musical for Tuck Everlasting and Maitland Repertory Theatre’s Pip Thoroughgood claimed the Excellence by a Director – Play honours for All My Sons.

CONDA head judge Karen Birrell said the calibre of theatre produced in Newcastle was exceptional.

There was a great spread, demonstrating there is quality work being produced everywhere.

Dr Shane Bransdon

“This year, the winners hailed from 12 different local companies, reflecting a broad distribution of achievements in design, technical achievement, performance, direction and writing across the region,” she explained.

CONDA president Dr Shane Bransdon agreed.

“It was great to see so many different companies winning awards,” he said.

“Some years, there are particular shows that dominate and take home quite a few awards.

“But, in 2023, there was a great spread, demonstrating there is quality work being produced everywhere.”

The most prestigious award, acknowledging Outstanding Achievement and Contribution to Theatre, was awarded to Mercia Buck OAM for her involvement and advocacy for the industry over several decades.

She is also the founder of Opera Hunter and was influential in the establishment of the Warners Bay Theatre.

Meanwhile, the CONDA Legacy Awards saw unsung heroes Vivien Jones, Nola Wallace and John Zeder recognised.

45th Annual City of Newcastle Drama Awards (CONDAs)

  • Excellence in Hair, Makeup and Wigs: Ralf Jorg, Merrily We Roll Along (Newcastle Theatre Company)
  • Excellence in Costume Design: Helen Sternbeck, The Government Inspector (Newcastle Theatre Company)
  • Excellence in Set and Props Design: Riley McLean, Tuck Everlasting – TYA Edition (Young People’s Theatre Newcastle Inc.)
  • Excellence in Lighting Design: Damon Herrington, Cinderella (St Philip’s Christian College)
  • Excellence in Sound Design: Talia Condie, Jessica Kelly, Patrick Lee & Charlee Skelly Osmond, The War of the Worlds (Hunter Drama)
  • Excellence in Audio Visual & Multimedia Design: Belle Holliday-Williams & Michael Cooper, Cinderella (St Philip’s Christian College)
  • Excellence by a Performer 18 and Under in a Supporting Role: Symphony Riley, Legally Blonde (Hunter School of the Performing Arts)
  • Excellence by a Performer 18 and Under in a Lead Role – Musical: Nyah Le, The Wedding Singer (Hunter Drama)
  • Excellence by a Performer 18 and Under in a Lead Role – Musical: Emma Norton, Disney’s Frozen JR., (Young People’s Theatre Newcastle Inc)
  • Excellence by a Performer 18 and Under in a Lead Role – Play: Seb Smee, Where in the World is Frank Sparrow (Fickle Youth Productions)
  • Best 18 and Under Ensemble: Matilda JR. (High Street Productions)
  • Best Production – 18 and Under: Cinderella (St Philip’s Christian College)
  • Best Ensemble – Play: Take Me to Neverland (Bearfoot Theatre)
  • Best Ensemble – Musical: Legally Blonde (Chookas Entertainment)
  • Excellence by a Guest Performer: Debora Krizak, Billy Elliot The Musical (The Very Popular Theatre Company)
  • Excellence by a Performer in a Supporting Role – Musical: Megan Connolly, Merrily We Roll Along (Newcastle Theatre Company)
  • Excellence by a Performer in a Supporting Role – Play: Celia Kelly, Rumours (Maitland Repertory Theatre)
  • Excellence by a Performer in a Leading Role – Musical: Bree Young, Heathers The Musical (Chookas Entertainment)
  • Excellence by a Performer in a Leading Role – Play: Megan Kennedy, Banging Denmark (The Very Popular Theatre Company)
  • Best New Play or Musical Written for a Newcastle Company: Claire Thomas, A Pocketful of Stories (Young People’s Theatre Newcastle Inc.)
  • Best Special Theatrical Event: A-Z Musical Cabaret (Hunter School of the Performing Arts)
  • Excellence by a Choreographer: Vanessa Ambrose & Rachel Stark, Legally Blonde (Hunter School of the Performing Arts)
  • Excellence by a Music or Vocal Director: Daniel Wilson, Billy Elliot The Musical (The Very Popular Theatre Company)
  • Excellence by a Director – Musical: Riley McLean, Tuck Everlasting – TYA Edition (Young People’s Theatre Newcastle Inc.)
  • Excellence by a Director – Play: Pip Thoroughgood, All My Sons (Maitland Repertory Theatre)
  • Best Musical Production : Heathers The Musical (Chookas Entertainment)
  • Best Dramatic Production: Ideation (Knock And Run Theatre)

Legacy Awards 

  • Vivien Jones
  • Nola Wallace
  • John Zeder

Outstanding Achievement & Contribution to Theatre

  • Mercia Buck

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