Broadway star mentors musical theatre students

Musical theatre students from the Queensland Conservatorium are being mentored by Broadway royalty this week.

Award-winning singer Liz Callaway is conducting a series of intensive workshops and masterclasses with final year students before she takes to the stage in Brisbane for the first time.

The students will deliver a special performance of cabaret and musical theatre at QPAC tomorrow night, and final year musical theatre student Shubshri Kandiah has been selected to perform a duet with Liz at her show the following evening.

Shubshri, 22, said the experience had been “a dream come true”.

“I am blown away that I get the chance to sing with one of my idols,” she said.

“I grew up listening to her recordings of Cats and Miss Saigon, and I’ve always loved her voice.

“I was standing at the piano with her today and I had to hold back tears!”

Fellow musical theatre student Maddison McDonald said the week of workshops had been “amazing”.

“Liz has such an incredible knowledge of the industry and has been an amazing mentor to all of us.”

Queensland Conservatorium Director Professor Scott Harrison said that fostering close ties with organisations like the Queensland Performing Arts Centre had opened up remarkable opportunities for students.

“We are fortunate to be based in the heart of Brisbane’s cultural precinct, and organisations like QPAC are very supportive of our students,” he said.

“They recognise that our graduates will go on to form the backbone of Australia’s performing arts productions and provide incredible opportunities for our students to learn from industry professionals and perform alongside the world’s best artists.”

Liz Callaway made her Broadway debut in Stephen Sondheim’s Merrily We Roll Along, and has starred in Cats and the original production of Miss Saigon on the Great White Way.

In a career spanning three decades, she has won an Emmy, and been nominated for a Tony and an Oscar. She was the singing voice of Princess Jasmine in Disney’s Aladdin and the King of Thieves and The Return of Jafar. Liz also sang the catchy theme song for the long-running TV series, The Nanny.

She said mentoring was “incredibly rewarding”.

“I think we never stop learning, and I learn from the students I work with too,” she said.

“I’m working with the students on how to create a cabaret show, everything from choosing songs that have meaning to them, learning how to write patter, to developing a rapport with their audience. I’m sharing my philosophy that singing is storytelling,” she said.

Her advice for aspiring performers is simple – “be authentic”.

“I always tell students, there is no one like you, so celebrate what makes you different. My motto is “nothing to prove, only to share.”

Queensland Conservatorium Head of Performing Arts Associate Professor Paul Sabey said industry experience was a key part of the musical theatre degree.

“It is vital that young performers build their professional networks and gain exposure to the industry,” he said.

“The opportunity to work closely with an artist of Liz Callaway’s calibre is a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

The musical students will put on a special performance – The Sky’s the Limit: Student Cabaret Showcase – on October 12. Two students will also be selected to be guest performers during An Evening with Liz Callaway on October 13 and 14. For tickets, visit QPAC.