Fond memories for Graeme
The origins of Warragul Theatre Company dates back to then West Gippsland Arts Centre manager Greg McGrath wanting to bring community theatre into the venue.
“It wasn’t being used much, that was part of the problem,” said Graeme.
One group, which later morphed into the Green Shed Theatre Company, had produced musicals in the mid-90s before a two to threeyear hiatus.
McGrath then stepped in and plans were made for “The Pirates of Penzance” in 1998.
After the show proved “remarkably successful”, the group very quickly jumped into “Jesus Christ Superstar” just eight months later.
With “Les Miserables” very much in flavour at the time, a committee had to be formed to secure the rights in 2000 and Warragul Theatre Company was born.
“Les Miserables”, which was staged again in 2010, remains Graeme’s favourite show.
He also enjoyed “My Fair Lady” in 2002 which he described as “a really nice show”. It was directed by the late Norman Yemm who was good at stage craft but poor in organisation.
“Singin in the Rain” in 2003 was groundbreaking as “we were one of the first theatre companies to use rain”.
Whilst using the sprinkler system to create a wet stage proved visually spectacular, it caused headaches behind the scenes. The water seeped under the coverings and impacted on parts of the stage.
What followed was “Oliver” in 2004, “Oklahoma” – “surprisingly very popular” – in 2005 and “Anything Goes” in 2006.
The staging of “Cats” in 2008 was a sombre occasion as it was the last show of director David Pickburn before his death. He had missed only one show as director – having instead played the lead in “My Fair Lady”.
“He knew he didn’t have long,” said Graeme. “It’s the first time I’ve ever seen a director get a standing ovation. At the last show, he stood up and took a bow.”
He praised the company for trying something different with “Carmen the Musical” in 2012 and recent forays into straight drama productions.
“Phantom of the Opera” in 2014 was recalled “in many ways our biggest ever production in terms of sets and costumes”.