Work is passion for Alex Rathgeber
Spending 14 years in the one job might seem long enough for many in the workforce these days – especially if the work is as physically and emotionally challenging as it is intellectually.
But theatrical performer Alex Rathgeber, originally from Horsham and now 35, said he felt lucky every day he went to work and remained in love with the trade.
“I’m getting to work with and perform alongside some pretty amazing people in some incredible shows. I still pinch myself all the time,” he said.
Rathgeber, whose early passion for performance evolved through events such as Wimmera eisteddfods and Horsham High School and Horsham Arts Council productions, made the comments in between shows and his role with the London Palladium production of The Wizard of Oz.
The production is touring Australia and will start at Melbourne’s Regent Theatre on May 15.
Rathgeber has a primary role as the Tin Man, performing alongside Samantha Dodemaide, Dorothy, Eli Cooper, the Scarecrow, John Xintavelonis, the Lion, Jemma Rix as Wicked Witch of the West and Lucy Durack, Glinda the Good Witch. Anthony Warlow plays the Wizard.
Rathgeber said he was staggered by the scale and creative art that had gone into the production.
“Walking back stage you can’t help but notice how much is involved – the costumes, the sets and the number of people needed in a production like this to make it run so seamlessly is staggering. It is quite a special thing to be part of,” he said.
“One of the great things about this particular show is that is so joyous. People have a nostalgic attachment and the Tin Man, who is always looking for a heart when in fact he has the biggest heart of all, is a beautiful role to play. It really is quite an emotional and united journey for all of us playing the main characters.”
Rathgeber, who graduated from Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts in 2003, said the show had attracted a fantastic audience response.
“It really hits people, especially when the orchestrations are delivered in such a magnificent way. Andrew Lloyd Webber has added five new songs to the original music and we’re also noticing people laughing in response to a funny updated script as well as crying to such a heart-wrenching story,” he said.
“My main song, If I Only had a Heart, is a big number where I get to tap dance which has been quite an exciting challenge. Starting as a singer I only really started dancing when I attended WAAPA. I’ve tapped in about half a dozen shows in the past few years but this is the first time I’ve done a solo tap.”
Rathgeber said the theatre industry provided a fascinating and ever-changing working environment.
“It’s a great community here in Australia. There’s a lot of wonderful people in this business and there are various common threads that tie us together. I just love the people, who generally believe in celebrating life and challenging themselves physical and emotionally,” he said.
“It’s a job that requires you to continually extend yourself and it can be as addictive as it is rewarding.”
Rathgeber said although he had not been back to Horsham ‘for a while’, he kept in touch with close childhood friends. He encouraged Wimmera people to attend a The Wizard of Oz show.
FOLLOWING THE YELLOW BRICK ROAD: Alex Rathgeber, second from left, is relishing his role as the Tin Man in the London Palladium production of The Wizard of Oz.