Blue Mountains Musical Society is poised to deliver sparkling performances with their upcoming production of Strictly Ballroom.
The musical features five cast members who have directed previous acclaimed productions for the society. Stepping away from the director's chair, these versatile artists have now returned to the limelight, showcasing their immense skills on the stage.
Hayley Cascalini, fresh from directing BMMS' most recent production School of Rock, will be performing the iconic role of Liz Holt.
"I wanted to be able to dance with my husband or my best friend, and I get to do both," she said, "and in sequins."
Reflecting on her transition to cast member following her experience as a director, Cascalini expressed a newfound reverence for backstage efforts.
"I now have way more respect for everything that goes on behind the stage, and I try to be the best cast member I can, to make it easier. These people have more experience than me so I can learn from them by working with them," she said.
Ri Dixon has directed many musical productions, including Gypsy for BMMS. They are playing the role of JJ Silvers in Strictly Ballroom and admire the ability of members of the society to move between roles seamlessly.
"A huge appeal of BMMS is that there is a very chill vibe, and there is fluidity in the roles people take," Dixon said.
"You might be directed by someone in one production, perform alongside them in another and then direct them in another. Those dynamic shifts just happen and there is no issue. There is no ego at play, it feels totally natural.
"It's a very supportive, community vibe and it's lovely to be a part of it - no matter the role you play," they said.
Dixon praised Strictly Ballroom's director and choreographer, Linda Aubrecht.
"I really admire how approachable Linda is, and her visual creativity is out of this world - extremely admirable and aspirational."
John Forbes, who will be performing the role of dance instructor Les Kendall, also appreciates Aubrecht's talents.
"Linda and I have traded places as she was one of the leads in my production of Mamma Mia. We've also worked together on The Little Mermaid, where I was director, and she was choreographer.
"It's wonderful to see how Linda intermixes the blocking and choreography together seamlessly and is eager to bring out the characters through the choreography," he said.
Forbes, who has directed numerous productions for BMMS and other societies, loves directing and performing equally.
"I feel to be an effective director you need to be able to unpack a character and find out what makes them tick. I've loved doing that with Les in this production of Strictly Ballroom."
Another experienced director of many shows who is returning to the stage is Matthew Barry, who directed the BMMS production of Spamalot. He will be performing as Doug Hastings and was inspired to perform again in this production because of his love of the original film.
"I chose to audition because of my love of the Baz Luhrmann film and my admiration for Barry Otto's characterisation of Doug," Barry said.
"I have always approached direction from an actor's standpoint, so I really feel a part of the ensemble. Performing does take a level of pressure off you though, for sure
"I think as a previous director, you gain an insight into the process, vision and pressure the present director has, and this helps you to hit the marks they give you," he said.
Jessica Lovelace, who has directed four BMMS productions including Sweeney Todd and Chicago, has done 18 shows with Aubrecht, including both performing with and directing her. However, this will be her first time being directed by Aubrecht, a configuration Lovelace is loving. She is also using her time back in the cast to consider her approach to both performing and directing.
"When you're in the cast, you're generally only looking at one aspect of the show, whereas the director and production team have to look at the bigger picture.
"As a cast member, I can't see that full picture, so I have to trust that there are other factors going into the decisions that are being made, of which I am not aware.
"This gives me really valuable insight for when I am back in a directorial role, because I can better understand where the information gaps are for the cast, and their perspective on things," she said.
Not only is she busy playing the role of Barry Fife, but Lovelace is also the head of hair and make-up for Strictly Ballroom.
"The visuals of the film are quite specific and iconic, so it's definitely the kind of show that appeals to a hair and makeup artist.
"I'm excited to create our own visual language for Strictly Ballroom which draws on lots of sources of inspiration - the 2014 musical production, the world of dance sport, the 1980s, and our own local performers."
So why should audiences come and see these very talented director/performers strut their stuff on the stage?
"It's a nice little story about challenging tradition, the status quo, and the institutionalised rules because they aren't always the best way," said Dixon.
"And that little message is wrapped up in a whole lot of glitz, glamour, sequins and fake tan."
Strictly Ballroom will be performed for a strictly limited season at the Blue Mountains Theatre and Community Hub from October 21 to November 5. Tickets are available online at 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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