What I learned attending my first ever Helpmann Awards

The 2017 17th annual Helpmann Awards were held last Monday at the Capitol Theatre in Sydney. Lachlan attended the ceremony and reflects on the experience – his first time at the iconic celebration of stage performances in Australia.

They’re long… and for good reason

Clocking in at 3 hours with no commercial breaks, the ceremony presents 42 awards from 10 categories which helps the Helpmann Awards achieve their pursuit of “recognising distinguished artistic achievement and excellence” across all of Australia’s vibrant live performance sectors. From musical theatre, contemporary music, comedy, cabaret, regional touring, presentations for children, opera, classical music, theatre, dance and physical theatre; each sector got their moment in the spotlight on the night. As Penny Cook noted whilst presenting the award for Best Presentation for Children, “sometimes in the [children’s] sector feel we are made to sit at the young peoples children’s table; that’s okay, we get to have fairy bread and fizzy drink, but it is really exciting when we are included in the conversation and its really exciting when we’re offered an adult glass of fizzy drink.” Even though there are many unfamiliar names recognised and/or nominated, the numerous stills used in the nomination graphics and acceptance speeches serve as a promotion for their works and tease viewers into researching the works as well as realised the depth of productions available to experience.

Australian Dance Theatre’s ‘Construct’.

Bigger isn’t always better

The night saw performances from ‘My Fair Lady’, ‘Kinky Boots’, ‘Disney’s Aladdin’, ‘The Book of Mormon’, ‘Beautiful: The Carole King Musical’, Green Day’s ‘American Idiot’ and ‘Velvet’ starring Marcia Hines. The majority of these scenes used scores of dancers, singers and actors to create a large-scale chorus of energy and vibrancy in their one-scene showcase. But it was the bare, raw and atmospheric three-person scene from Australian Dance Theatre’s ‘Construct’ that was a highlight of the night. Performed as a tribute to choreographer Tanja Liedtke, the production is seeing a revival after a decade and was daringly alluring as two cast members collapsed to the ground as one tried desperately to maintain order and safety. Devoid of speech, the scene is set to a soundtrack of spacious industrial ticking and drips that allow laughs from the audience to picked up – audible gasps of shock were heard in the theatre on the night but don’t seem to have made it to the telecast (Garry Stewart of the Australian Dance Theatre introduces the piece at 1:04:04 into the telecast).

The 2017 Helpmann Awards originally aired live on the Foxtel Arts channel. The full awards ceremony with performances can now be streamed on the Foxtel Arts website by clicking HERE or ABC iView by clicking HERE.

The 2017 Helpmann Awards winners list:

INDUSTRY AWARDS

BEST NEW AUSTRALIAN WORK

LEAH PURCELL – The Drovers Wife – Belvoir 

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

GREGG BARNES – Aladdin – Disney Theatrical Productions (Australia)

BEST LIGHTING DESIGN

JOACHIM KLEIN – Saul – Adelaide Festival in association with the State Opera of South Australia, the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra and the Adelaide Festival Centre present a Glyndebourne Festival Opera production

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

IAIN GRANDAGE AND RAHAYU SUPANGGAH – Satan Jawa – Arts Centre Melbourne, Asia TOPA and Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

BEST MUSIC DIRECTION

ERIN HELYARD – Saul – Adelaide Festival in association with the State Opera of South Australia, the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra and the Adelaide Festival Centre present a Glyndebourne Festival Opera production

BEST SCENIC DESIGN

ANNA CORDINGLEY – Jasper Jones – Melbourne Theatre Company

BEST SOUND DESIGN

GARETH FRY AND PETE MALKIN – The Encounter – Complicite, Sydney Festival, Malthouse Theatre, Adelaide Festival and Perth International Arts Festival

 

CABARET

BEST CABARET PERFORMER

HOPE HAAMI, JUANITA DUNCAN, OFA FOTU, CRYSTAL STACEY, ALEXIS WEST, GHENOA GELA, LISA FA’ALAFI AND KIM ‘BUSTY BEATZ’ BOWERS – Hot Brown Honey – Briefs Factory, Arts Centre Melbourne and Sydney Opera House

 

COMEDY

BEST COMEDY PERFORMER

HANNAH GADSBY – Nanette – Token Events

 

PRESENTATION FOR CHILDREN  

BEST PRESENTATION FOR CHILDREN

JUMP FIRST, ASK LATER – Powerhouse Youth Theatre and Force Majeure

 

REGIONAL TOURING AWARDS

BEST REGIONAL TOURING PRODUCTION

TERRAIN – Bangarra Dance Theatre

 

CONTEMPORARY MUSIC

BEST AUSTRALIAN CONTEMPORARY CONCERT

NICK CAVE & THE BAD SEEDS AND BILLIONS AUSTRALIA – Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Billions Australia

BEST CONTEMPORARY MUSIC FESTIVAL

MONA FOMA 2017 – Museum of Old and New Art

BEST INTERNATIONAL CONTEMPORARY CONCERT

PATTI SMITH AND BLUESFEST TOURING – Patti Smith and her Band Australian Tour 2017 – Bluesfest Touring

 

DANCE AND PHYSICAL THEATRE AWARDS

BEST BALLET

BALLET PRELJOCAJS SNOW WHITE – QPAC in association with Brisbane Festival

BEST DANCE PRODUCTION

ATTRACTOR – Dancenorth and Lucy Guerin Inc, with Arts Centre Melbourne, Asia TOPA, WOMADelaide and Brisbane Festival

BEST CHOREOGRAPHY IN A BALLET, DANCE OR PHYSICAL THEATRE PRODUCTION

GIDEON OBARZANEK AND LUCY GUERIN – Attractor – Dancenorth and Lucy Guerin Inc, with Arts Centre Melbourne, Asia TOPA, WOMADelaide and Brisbane Festival

BEST MALE DANCER IN A BALLET, DANCE OR PHYSICAL THEATRE PRODUCTION

KEVIN JACKSON – Nijinsky – The Australian Ballet

BEST FEMALE DANCER IN A BALLET, DANCE OR PHYSICAL THEATRE PRODUCTION

 LILIAN STEINER – Split – Lucy Guerin Inc and Arts House

BEST VISUAL OR PHYSICAL THEATRE PRODUCTION

 SNAKE SESSIONS – Branch Nebula, produced by Intimate Spectacle, toured by Arts on Tour

 

OPERA AND CLASSICAL MUSIC

BEST DIRECTION OF AN OPERA

BARRIE KOSKY – Saul – Adelaide Festival in association with the State Opera of South Australia, the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra and the Adelaide Festival Centre present a Glyndebourne Festival Opera production

BEST FEMALE PERFORMER IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN AN OPERA

LORINA GORE – King Roger – Opera Australia

BEST MALE PERFORMER IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN AN OPERA

KANEN BREEN – Saul – Adelaide Festival in association with the State Opera of South Australia, the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra and the Adelaide Festival Centre present a Glyndebourne Festival Opera production

BEST FEMALE PERFORMER IN AN OPERA

LISE LINDSTROM – The Ring Cycle – Opera Australia

BEST MALE PERFORMER IN AN OPERA

CHRISTOPHER PURVES – Saul – Adelaide Festival in association with the State Opera of South Australia, the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra and the Adelaide Festival Centre present a Glyndebourne Festival Opera production

BEST OPERA

SAUL – Adelaide Festival in association with the State Opera of South Australia, the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra and the Adelaide Festival Centre present a Glyndebourne Festival Opera production

BEST CHAMBER AND/OR INSTRUMENTAL ENSEMBLE CONCERT

ACADEMY OF ST MARTIN IN THE FIELDS – Academy of St Martin in the Fields, Melbourne Recital Centre, Sydney Opera House and QPAC

BEST SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA CONCERT

STEMME, SKELTON, TRISTAN & ISOLDE – Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra

BEST INDIVIDUAL CLASSICAL MUSIC PERFORMANCE

JOSHUA BELL – Academy of St Martin in the Fields – Academy of St Martin in the Fields, Melbourne Recital Centre, Sydney Opera House and QPAC


THEATRE

BEST DIRECTION OF A PLAY

LETICIA CÁCERES – The Drovers Wife – Belvoir

BEST FEMALE ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A PLAY

AMBER MCMAHON – Girl Asleep – Windmill Theatre Company

BEST MALE ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A PLAY

GUY SIMON – Jasper Jones – Melbourne Theatre Company

 BEST FEMALE ACTOR IN A PLAY

 KATE MULVANY – Richard 3 – Bell Shakespeare

BEST MALE ACTOR IN A PLAY

MARK COLES SMITH – The Drovers Wife – Belvoir

BEST PLAY

THE DROVERS WIFE – Belvoir

 

MUSICALS AWARDS

 BEST DIRECTION OF A MUSICAL

TREY PARKER AND CASEY NICHOLAW – The Book of Mormon – ANNE GAREFINO, SCOTT RUDIN, IMPORTANT MUSICALS, JOHN FROST, Roger Berlind, Scott M. Delman, Jean Doumanian, Roy Furman, Stephanie P. McClelland, Kevin Morris, Jon B. Platt, Sonia Friedman Productions

BEST CHOREOGRAPHY IN A MUSICAL

JERRY MITCHELL – Kinky Boots – MICHAEL CASSEL by special arrangement with DARYL ROTH and HAL LUFTIG

BEST FEMALE ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A MUSICAL

ROBYN NEVIN – My Fair Lady – Opera Australia and John Frost

BEST MALE ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A MUSICAL

 MICHAEL JAMES SCOTT – Aladdin – Disney Theatrical Productions (Australia) 

BEST FEMALE ACTOR IN A MUSICAL

ANNA OBYRNE – My Fair Lady – Opera Australia and John Frost 

BEST MALE ACTOR IN A MUSICAL

CALLUM FRANCIS – Kinky Boots – MICHAEL CASSEL by special arrangement with DARYL ROTH and HAL LUFTIG

BEST MUSICAL

 THE BOOK OF MORMON – ANNE GAREFINO, SCOTT RUDIN, IMPORTANT MUSICALS, JOHN FROST, Roger Berlind, Scott M. Delman, Jean Doumanian, Roy Furman, Stephanie P. McClelland, Kevin Morris, Jon B. Platt, Sonia Friedman Productions

2017 Sue Nattrass Award

Rob Brookman AM

2017 JC Williamson Award

Richard Tognetti AO