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All will be revealed

INTRIGUING: The cast of The Very Popular Theatre Company’s A Mystery Musical. Its secret will be revealed at Civic Playhouse.WHEN Hunter actors auditioned in December for The Very Popular Theatre Company’s A Mystery Musical they weren’t told what the musical actually was. Those chosen for the cast found out its name and their roles only when they went to the first rehearsal in February.

Audiences likewise will learn its name only when the overture begins during its four-performance season from May 17 at Newcastle’s Civic Playhouse.They will be asked not to reveal to others what the show is until after the season ends.

James Tolhurst, who co-directs with Daniel Stoddart and is the show’s choreographer, said the musical’s songs are well-known and it was an award-winning Broadway hit, but this is its first Newcastle season. The cast, among other things, have been told not to sing or hum the songs in other people’s company, or to leave their scripts lying around. The company that controls the rights to the musical has given The Very Popular Theatre Company an orchestral recording of the music to further limit the number of people aware of its title.

Ali Hodge, who is one of the 18 cast members, said the first rehearsal was the most exciting she had been to. “There were quite a few guesses floating around as to what the show was, and we were delighted to learn its name.” Rachelle Schmidt-Adnum, who is the musical director and in the cast, has advised her fellow performers, with tongue firmly in cheek, to tell everyone they are correct when they try to guess its name.Asked whether the musical is a dark or light show, James Tolhurst said it had elements of both.

The other cast members are Jack Andrew, Luke Baker, Brittany Biles, Andrew Black, Kacie Bourke, Mathew Gallimore, Drew Holmes, Bec Kynaston, Phil McGrath, Maisie Owens, Harold Phipps, Hamish Pickering, John Thomas, Zoe Walker, Dain Watts and Chelsea Willis, with Willis also assistant choreographer.

A Mystery Musical has 8pm performances nightly from May 17-May 19, plus a 2pm Saturday matinee. Tickets: $48, concession/student $38. Bookings: 4929 1977.

The show is the first staged by the company, previously known as The Popular Theatre Company, since its production of the classic English comedy, Charley’s Aunt, in 2015.

The company was established in 2006, with long-time Newcastle University Drama Department head, Victor Emeljanow, and Daniel Stoddart as co-artistic directors, to produce popularshows, such as comedies, farces and musical theatre.

Sadly, Victor Emeljanow, who was to have directed this year’s other company show, Samuel Beckett’s comedy Endgame, died two weeks ago, and the staging has been put back to April, 2019.

JOBREADYJOBREADY is an unusual subject for a stage show, but the comedy looks at people forced by Australia’s welfare system to take jobs for which they have no skills. Put together by Sydney’s Big Muscles Sad Heart Theatre, it is having Newcastle shows at the Royal Exchange, in Bolton Street, on Saturday, at 8pm, and Sunday, at 5pm.JobReady focuses on Matte, an educated, certified and competent man who is ready to return to the workforce. But, with few jobs in sight, he goes to the JobReady Agency, which is determined to get him a job, no matter what.

The four actors in the show include Matte Rochford, who plays the character with his name, and Caitlin Doyle-Markwick, who also wrote it. As the showis loosely based on real life stories from the dark underbelly of the social welfare system, audience members may see people they know in it. But it uses laughter to make people think about the issues. Tickets are $25, concession $20.

JULIA MORRISANOTHER show looking at people’s lives isJulia Morris: Lift & Separate Golden Jubilee Tourin which the title comic performer reviews the impact reaching the high 30s has had on her life in the past two years. After a sold-out capital cities tour last year, it is now playing in regional venues, with a show at Newcastle’s Civic Theatre onMay 20at 7.30pm; tickets $54.90, concession $49.90. The show, for people aged 16 and over, shows in an amusing way her regrets about reaching an age where your “days of wearing no sleeves are over”.

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