Blue Mountains Musical Society (BMMS) is preparing to wow audiences with its latest production, Strictly Ballroom.
Set in the competitive dance world of the 1980s, the classic Australian story will appear on the Blue Mountains Theatre stage this October and November. Full of sparkle and heart, the musical features connections between a number of its cast members.
Alex and Hayley Cascalini met through BMMS and were recently married in the Megalong Valley. Strictly Ballroom will be the 21st BMMS production for Alex, who plays Ken Railings. Hayley, who plays Liz Holt, auditioned for the show, hoping she would have the opportunity to dance with Alex. The couple are delighted to be sharing the stage in what Hayley describes as a "camp, bright and bold" show.
"Getting to do some proper ballroom dancing with my wife is so much fun," said Alex.
"Learning the tango together is a bonus."
Another couple, John Forbes and Wilver Velasco, will also appear in Strictly Ballroom. Married last year in Katoomba, John most recently directed Mamma Mia! for BMMS while Wilver was the rehearsal manager. They are now ecstatic to be performing together for the first time.
"Doing Strictly Ballroom with John is a dream come true," said Wilver.
"I love working with my husband on any production, but sharing a stage with him is another level."
Outside of rehearsals John and Wilver spend time in the Blue Mountains community taking Zumba and ballroom classes together. Inside rehearsals one of John's favourite parts is witnessing his husband performing.
"A highlight for me is watching Wilver create his ensemble character in his first musical. His partner work in Time After Time is so cute and a lot of fun to watch," said John.
Strictly Ballroom will also star Michelle and Kevin O'Reilly who have been married for 23 years. The couple attended high school together, but only began dating after they met again at rock 'n' roll dance classes in 1999. Michelle and Kevin are embracing the opportunity to not only perform together, but also with two of their daughters, Erin and Kayley.
"I'm so conscious that this could be a once in a lifetime opportunity, so I'm enjoying every moment. It's amazing to watch people I love learn and grow," said Michelle.
Erin, performing in her first BMMS show in five years, is also relishing spending time with her family.
"It's been so great to spend so much time with them," she said.
"We all love musicals, so it feels special to share this experience with them."
Kevin, who has been part of BMMS shows behind the scenes since 2010 is thrilled to be stepping on stage for the first time. He said his family has been instrumental in helping him take on the character of ballroom dancer, Rory.
"They have been incredibly encouraging. Their support and light-hearted attitude have allowed me to laugh at myself," he said.
Kayley, who completed her HSC at Winmalee High School last year has enjoyed being part of her dad's first musical.
"It's been a big deal having dad in the show. I've really loved watching him come out of his shell."
Also taking to the Strictly Ballroom stage will be sisters Alina and Bernadette Wakeling, who both grew up with a love of performing.
"When we were little, we would put on concerts for our family in the living room," said Alina.
"We'd spend hours making up dances and singing together."
Now the director of a music school, Alina cannot wait to perform in a musical with Bernadette for the first time. Bernadette, who also works at Alina W Music shares her sister's eager anticipation.
"This will be the first musical we perform in together and we are both very excited," she said.
Father-daughter duo, Pavel and Simone Aubrecht, will also be appearing together on the BMMS stage for the first time. Both figure skating coaches, Strictly Ballroom will be the sixth show for Simone, while it is the first for Pavel. He is enjoying his first BMMS experience, particularly sharing it with Simone, who he describes as "hard working, dedicated and focused".
Pavel, who plays Rico, is also thrilled to be working with his wife, Linda Aubrecht who is directing the show.
Bec and Bella Blackwell will also appear in Strictly Ballroom. LKM Performing Arts teacher, Bella, recalls watching the movie with her mum as a child. She is ecstatic they get to be part of the musical together.
"It's such a treasured movie in our lives, so having the opportunity to become part of the ballroom world with my mum is amazing," she said.
Bella also revealed "it's always a blast sharing the stage with my mum. She's incredibly talented and I look up to her as my dancing idol".
Bec also shares a great deal of admiration for her daughter.
"The day she was born all my dreams came true. She's undeniably smart and incredibly talented, and so very cool."
Bec cannot wait for audiences to experience the show.
"People need to see this classic Australian show jam-packed with classic Australian humour," she said.
Catch the dazzling story delight of Strictly Ballroom at the Blue Mountains Theatre and Community Hub from October 21 to November 5. Tickets are available online at www.bmms.org.au/book-tickets, by calling 4723 5050 or in person at the venue. The cost is $49 for adults, $45 for concessions and $39 for children under 16. A 10 per cent discount applies for groups of 15 or more. There is a special price for one night only, Friday October 27, when all tickets are just $39 each.
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