Family Affair in Tweed for Broadway Blockbusters

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Tracey (L) and Steffi Kriz are the creative team behind Tweed Theatre Company’s Broadway Blockbusters

On the eve of Tweed Theatre Company’s production of Broadway Blockbusters, RATnews talks with the incredibly talented mother and daughter team that has brought this creative, and out of the ordinary, show to the stage.

Tracey (director/choreography) and Steffi Kriz (musical director) are no strangers to the theatres of the Tweed Region, and are well known up and down the eastern side of the country, having spent a life time (well, two lifetimes) honing the art of theatrical brilliance – and not for the first time as creative partners.

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Classically trained Tracey’s extensive stage career began at the age of 13 singing for the installation of the new Bishop of Ballarat, broadcast by the ABC.  Over the years, her career has included roles as diverse as lead soprano in Bach’s B Minor Mass, and as featured artist in Best Little Whorehouse in Texas!  Her involvement in many other shows in every aspect of production and performance, has resulted in her winning much acclaim, and awards, over the years.

Daughter Steffi was just about born to the stage, being in utero for 4 performances of Tracey’s Stop the World I want to Get Off tour of Victoria and South Australia in 1986.  Tracey’s two children were ever present at rehearsals, getting under the feet of cast and no doubt being excused for talking when the rest of the cast were being yelled at by the Director – something many of us in community theatre can relate to.

Tracey and Steffi have appeared in around 20 productions together, often with Tracey directing Steffi, with signs of a good working relationship evident from those early days.  Despite the familial connection, like all good cast members, Steffi and her brother (Liam) knew not to question the Director at rehearsal, even though no doubt back at home they acted like normal teenagers, with the occasional “creative” disagreement surfacing behind closed doors.  But the early connection with the process meant that a professional approach to rehearsals just became the norm.

Since those early days Tracey has seen many changes in the way performers approach the stage.  Either because of the introduction of microphones removing the need to know voice projection, or a change in the way drama is taught in schools, a general loss of stage craft is apparent in many aspiring performers.  Even simple things like never turning your back to the audience are often misunderstood by actors, and those who can display some of this stagecraft certainly have the edge.  There is no doubt that in the Kriz’s current production all the cast will know exactly what to do on stage, and the show will be vastly better because of it.

Cast members Katrina Lardner, Emily Lake and Martin Jennings

In their current production, Broadway Blockbusters, the close working relationship of the two means technical planning for the show occurs seamlessly, with the kitchen table in Tracey’s home the place where both can discuss lighting, sound and other technical issues – often with Steffi ahead of Tracey – creating the perfect environment for brilliantly conceived plot development.  Both are accomplished musical directors in their own right, but Steffi’s clear understanding of what works musically, meshes perfectly with Tracey’s skills in choreography and direction to make magic happen on stage.

Tracey and Steffi have designed a show that covers the breadth of classic and more recent Broadway songs showcasing well known standards and anthems.  Most chosen because of the creative team’s love of the songs themselves, but the song selection also carefully considered potential cast members and their abilities to sing some of the numbers well.  But this is no typical show of musical biggies, and audiences can expect elements of light and shade to be a key feature, with the Broadway belters balanced by choral settings and musical harmonies (including a children’s chorus), with lots of comedy and fun thrown in for good measure.

The big cast of 38 includes Gold Coast vocal identities, Kirri Adams, Ian Lake, Michelle Cook, Deborah Joy Leigh-Russell , Katrina Lardner, Martin Jennings, Peter Gray and many more.  And it is not just in the creative team that family is significant.  Like many regional theatre production companies, Tweed Theatre Company encourages families to participate in its productions with six combinations of siblings, mother/daughter(s) and father/daughter in this show.

Eryn Lardner, Brody Seignior and Kylie Stringfellow-Exelby prepare for opening night

Shows like this highlight the importance of theatre outside the big cities.  Not only do they provide an opportunity for audiences to see a first class show in their local region, but when such a creative and talented team come on board, it provides aspiring performers the opportunity to learn from the best and to get the requisite experience to develop their skills.  The combination of the experienced creative team, and a dedicated and talented cast, will no doubt make this show one to remember.  One in which family is central to the creative process, and all the better for it.

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