Musical Comedy Society announces first patron, 2020 production at AGM

The Ararat Musical Comedy Society has had one of its most successful years, staging Les Miserables and making a considerable profit. The society held its AGM on Friday, August 30 to present its annual report, announce its first patron and next year’s musical production.

Les Miserables was staged in June at the Ararat Town Hall after three years of negotiations and organising. Eight shows were performed over three weekends with sellout and near-sellout audience numbers, but the society was taking quite a risk from the beginning as re-elected President Grant Johnson explained.

AME’s Dianne Radford excepts Peter Carthew’s plaque from AMCS President Grant Johnston.

“It was one that we thought we would lose money on because we knew how expensive it was to do it, and do it properly. All in all, the whole year has been very good and I wouldn’t think there’d be too many years that stack up that successfully across our 45 years,” Johnson said.

“There were plenty of people, including committee members, who thought we couldn’t do it. It’s such a big ask for a small-town community group – can we get all the cast, can we get all the behind the scenes people, can we build the sets, can we actually afford it?”

“The costs of putting on a community theatre production are so out of the realm of what most people in the public would realise. We spent over $50,000 on Les Miserable I think it was, it’s an inordinate amount of money.”

Sets are worked on for AMCS’ production of Les Miserable.
PHOTO: Grant Johnston

AMCS relies heavily on community support both physically and financially to afford the rights and pull a production together. The society receives sponsorships from many local organisations and individuals but one man has stood out over the years, so much so that the committee decided it was time to officially recognise him.

Peter Carthew and his enterprise AME Systems have been one of the group’s main supporters, coughing up sponsorship money to assist Ararat’s performers stage annual productions for the community.

“In these sort of country towns, ball sports is where the funds usually go, so to deliberately make a point of difference and support the arts has been invaluable support for us,” Johnson said.

“Over the years it has added up to a considerable amount of dollars he has supported us with. As time has gone on our deep-seated gratitude and appreciation of that has grown.”

“We needed to do more than just a thank you letter and promoting him through the program and advertising.”

“Over a couple of years, it came to the point of a decision that we should thank him by making him a patron. We knew that Peter wasn’t a patron of anything yet and so we felt it would be a very appropriate thing.”

AME’s Dianne Radford accepted a plaque on behalf of Carthew at the AGM.

“Peter is an AM, one of the highest accolades in Australia, and most of that is for his work and contribution to the community,” Radford said.

“He has always had great faith in the community and has really felt the Musical Comedy Society was something very special to him. He thoroughly enjoys being able to, in his position as the owner of AME Systems, to contribute financially so that you are able to annually have your musical event.”

“On behalf of Peter I thank you all, I congratulate you all and also really congratulate your executive because you don’t have success unless you have your leaders.”

“As I said, Peter is overwhelmed.”

The society wrapped up its annual meeting up by announcing its 2020 production: All Shook Up.

The production is inspired by Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night and follows a small Midwestern town that is thrown into a frenzy with the arrival of Chad, a good-looking, motorcycle-riding roustabout, who rides from town to town with a guitar on his back, blue suede shoes on his feet, and a song in his heart.

PHOTO: Diamond Head Theatre

“We ended up with about 25 show suggestions, and they all came from the input of committee members, the general members of the society and ones involved with Les Mis,” President Johnston said.

“Half the ones we were given as ideas were currently not available for community theatre so that knocked out about half. Then it’s working through the rest – what’s the cast mix, considerations about the music, can we get musicians and also alternatives such as backing tracks.”

“We don’t ever pick a show because it’s going to allow for someone to star in it.”

Now that a show has been locked in, Johnson said that work has begun behind the scenes to fill all the production team roles.

“A lot of the same people say ‘yes’ again and again every year but we never assume that.”

“Usually, our information sessions have been in January, with auditions a week or two thereafter. The rehearsals commence fairly quickly after that.”

Anyone interested in being involved is encouraged to join the societies Facebook Group for more announcements.