Illawarra talent dominates theatre awards

Illawarra thespians will be singing to the rafters with the announcement that the region's drama companies have dominated nominations for the Canberra Area Theatre Awards.

Wollongong High School of the Performing Arts, SoPopera, the Roo Theatre, Moonglow Productions and The Illawarra Grammar School have more than 40 nominations between them in the annual CAT awards, in almost every category from costume design and orchestra to best actor and actress.

SoPopera's production of Avenue Q collected 10 nominations, including three separate nominations for best actor in a musical.

"It's a show that is done fairly often, so it's great to have the judges see ours as on par with ones they've seen before," said director Amy Copeland.

"Most of us act as a hobby in our spare time and this was the first ever role for several of our cast members."

Wollongong High School of the Performing Arts (WHSPA) has been recognised for both its productions in 2013, with Away winning two nominations and The King and I collecting nine, including best youth actor and actress, and best production of a school musical.

"Each year we do a play as well as a musical, so being nominated for both is fantastic," said WHSPA head of music Ruth Ellevson, herself nominated for best musical director.

"The kids work hard, it's always nice to have hard work acknowledged."

Moonglow's production of Hairspray also scored 10 nominations. Director Wendy Glover said the sheer scale of recognition for local companies and productions reflected the strength of the Illawarra theatre community.

"Theatre is alive and kicking, with lots of opportunities for people to get involved in whatever theatre they want," she said.

Both Ms Copeland and Ms Ellevson agreed, saying the region often went underappreciated in terms of performance.

"It has always had a strong history of theatre. I'm excited that it's getting stronger and stronger, with more private theatre companies like Moonglow and Roo Theatre," Ms Ellevson said.

"Wollongong is one of the most creative communities in NSW."

The CAT awards will be announced in February.

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