Now in its 8th year, the Rob Guest Endowment Award is presented annually to an exceptional, emerging musical theatre performer. It seeks out Australia’s brightest and most talented young rising stars by putting them through a gruelling audition process overseen by a panel of industry experts.
In the lead-up to tonight’s Grand Final at the Sydney Lyric Theatre, we take a look at the six finalists, Du Toit Bredenkamp, Hilary Cole, Linden Furnell, Stefanie Jones, Genevieve Kingsford and Matthew Predny, who are vying for this year’s prestigious Award.
Du Toit Bredenkamp
Making his professional stage debut in the recent Australian touring production of The Sound of Music, Du Toit is a graduate from the Western Australian Academy of the Performing Arts (WAAPA) where he performed the roles of Claude Hooper-Bukowski in Hair, Doc in West Side Story, Terry in Sondheim’s Merrily We Roll Along, and Uncle Sam in Reefer Madness.
Prior to his studies in Musical Theatre, Du Toit also completed a Bachelor of Music in Classical Piano at WAAPA, and was privileged to act as Musical Director for the WAAPA productions of Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens, as well as a tribute show to Nick Enright called Enright in the Enright. Earlier this year, Du Toit was seen on the small screen playing Russell Morris in the critically-acclaimed television drama for the Seven Network, Molly.
If he was successful in winning the award, Du Toit said it would mean the world to him. “It would mean that all the hours of practice, and all the time and money my parents put into my training and study, was all worth it,” he said. “It would mean that I made the right choice after high school and that I am at the beginning of a long and happy career. But mostly it would mean that dreams really do come true!”
A finalist in the 2015 Rob Guest Endowment Award, Hilary originally hails from Melbourne, performing with the Victorian Youth Opera and YABC before beginning formal training in Musical Theatre at Ballarat’s Arts Academy. After moving to Sydney in 2013, Hilary played the title role of Carrie in the Australian premiere of Carrie The Musical with Squabbalogic Independent Music Theatre.
Other theatre credits include The Drowsy Chaperone, Dogfight, Miracle City and the premiere of her first cabaret O.C. Diva as part of The Hayes Theatre Co. inaugural cabaret season. Most recently, Hilary played the role of Veronica Sawyer in Heathers The Musical at Arts Centre Melbourne and the Sydney Opera House, and can currently be seen in the Australian premiere season of Kinky Boots at Melbourne’s Her Majesty’s Theatre.
“Winning such a coveted award would be a great honour,” says Hilary/ “It would allow me the freedom and confidence to focus purely on self development, unbridled. But irrespective of winning, being a part of the Rob Guest Endowment is an amazingly valuable experience and I’m thrilled that I get to be a part of it again this year. Being in such wonderful company and under the guidance of these world class creatives, well, it’s incredible and I feel very lucky. “
Leaving the corporate world behind in 2009 to pursue a musical theatre degree in Singapore, Linden graduated with first class honours from Lasalle College of the Arts. He’s performed as an actor, singer and dancer in Australia and abroad.
In Australia, Linden’s credits include the sell-out Hayes Theatre Co season of RENT for which he was awarded the Glug Award for Best Performance by a Newcomer, the Australian premiere season of Violet, and the Melbourne season of Songs for a New World for Blue Saint Productions. He can currently be seen in Kinky Boots at Melbourne’s Her Majesty’s Theatre.
Theatre credits in Singapore include: La Cage Aux Follies, The Cat in the Hat, Edges, Howie the Rookie, Next To Normal, A French Kiss, The Last Five Years, A Singaporean in Paris, 2 Houses and Great World Cabaret, most recently starring in Lucy Prebble’s The Effect.
“Winning the Rob Guest Endowment Award would be an enormous affirmation and an open door to real growth,” says Linden. “I began on this path later in life than many, and at 28, I’m still a relative newcomer to the Australian scene and I have a lot to learn.”
“Aside that, truth be told I’ve fought with a great deal of self doubt over the last couple years and this award would be an incredible bolster to my confidence; a rocket blast of assurance that folks believe in me, will get behind me and that I do indeed have something unique to offer the Australian (and hopefully international) industry.”
Stefanie’s music theatre career began at the age of seven when she appeared as Young Eponine in Cameron Mackintosh’s 10th Anniversary tour of Les Miserables. The following year she was cast in SEL & GFO’s Production of The Sound of Music performing the role of Brigitta, returning to the show 15 years later to play Liesl in the recent Australian tour.
Professional theatre credits include: South Pacific (Opera Australia/GFO), Once (GFO/MTC), Dreamsong (Carnegie 18), High As A Kite (StageArtXposed), the Sydney workshop for King Kong The Musical (Global Creatures), and Thomas and the Hidden Treasure (AKA).
Stefanie’s screen credits include Molly, The Divorce, and the role of Megan Dennison in Neighbours. She has also appeared with Green Room award winning group Ginger and Tonic in the 2015 seasons of the Adelaide Cabaret Fringe Festival and the Melbourne Cabaret Festival.
“The great honour I have of being a top 6 finalist would be amplified enormously if I were to be announced as this year’s winner,” says Stefanie. “The Rob Guest Endowment Award is the only one of it’s kind in our country, and to have a chance to join the line of exceptional past winners is very exciting indeed.”
“This award and what it can offer is truly invaluable, and it would mean so much to me to have the chance to represent Rob in this way. The Award would of course assist me greatly in honing my skills and reaching the highest level of performance I can, but I know no matter what result the night brings, the Endowment will be in safe and well deserving hands.”
Graduating from the London School of Musical Theatre in 2014, Genevieve’s credits whilst training include Violet in Violet (Bridewell Theatre) and Martine in RSVP ASAP; workshops included Annie in The Faith Machine, Rose in Ruddigore and Rosalind in As You Like It. She debuted playing Johanna in Sweeney Todd at the Twickenham Theatre.
Since returning to live in Australia, Genevieve has performed in the Australian International Opera Company’s China tour of La Traviata and in Sing On Through Tomorrow – a musical review by acclaimed Australian composer Matthew Lee Robinson. Genevieve was recently seen in Life Like Company’s critically acclaimed production of The Light in the Piazza at Arts Centre Melbourne.
“Winning the Rob Guest would mean a huge leg-up into the industry,” says Genevieve. “It would open so many doors and secure my name in the Australian Musical Theatre Community. Being in the top six is such a gift but winning would provide the financial support and industry consolidation like no other opportunity.”
A graduate of the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA), shortly after graduation, Matthew won the lead role of Princeton in Avenue Q. Most recently he appeared in the Australian tour of Fiddler on the Roof, the short film Problem Play and was a semifinalist in the 2015 Rob Guest Endowment Award. Matthew can also be seen in the Australian premiere season of Kinky Boots at Melbourne’s Her Majesty’s Theatre.
A talented writer, composer and director, Matthew’s work on the film, Did I Tell You About Jasper?, won the Audience Choice Award at the Women In Film Festival and his musical comedy, An Atheist’s Guide to the Galaxy, won the People’s Choice Award at the Sydney Fringe Festival.
“The Rob Guest Endowment symbolizes the creative legacy of this industry and shows faith for future generations,” says Matthew. “To win would be an honour. For me it would mean great opportunity, and motivation, to keep improving.”
The 2016 Rob Guest Endowment Award winner will take home $20,000, intended to help them gain the performance experience, media training, guidance and a public image to help them become a leading artist in the Australian musical theatre industry. This year also sees the return of Melbourne’s East End Theatre District Artist Development Award, a $5,000 prize, and runners up will each take home $1,500. In addition, the Playbill Future Prospect Award, a $1,500 prize is presented to a Semi Finalist who displays promising talent.
The 2016 Rob Guest Endowment Grand Final Concert takes place tonight at the Sydney Lyric Theatre. For more information, visit: www.robguestendowment.com.au for details.
Image: Du Toit Bredenkamp, Hilary Cole, Linden Furnell, Stefanie Jones, Genevieve Kingsford and Matthew Predny are the six finalists vying for the 2016 Rob Guest Endowment Award