The 24th CAT Awards throw up some surprises

Unless someone volunteered to take over, she said, it would be the last.

“It’s either that or it closes.”

Not that it was something to take on lightly.

“It’s a big job,” she said.

“I’ve got it all written down. It’s got to be someone who’s got the passion, who will keep the judges together.”

If the CAT (formerly Canberra Area Theatre) Awards continued, she said, she would like to stay on in some capacity, but not do the “heavy lifting”.

The other surprise of the night was that the 34 NSW companies outdid the 22 ACT companies in the number of awards won. Canberra shows won 16 awards out of 108 nominations and NSW (including Queanbeyan) shows won 31 awards out of 146 nominations.

Ted Briggs, who’s been a CAT Awards judge since 2003, said, “It might be the first time. Usually they’re a bit more evenly split between Canberra and the regions.”

CAT Award winner Arran McKenna (pictured as Francis Henshaw)  in Canberra Repertory Society's <i>One Man, Two Guvnors</i>.

CAT Award winner Arran McKenna (pictured as Francis Henshaw) in Canberra Repertory Society’s One Man, Two Guvnors.Credit:Helen Drum

Two companies tied for most winners in the open category with a total of six awards across multiple productions. Wollongong’s So Popera won five awards for its production of the musical A Chorus Line: best production of a musical; best direction of a musical or variety show; best musical direction; best choreographer; and best orchestra.

Its production of The Little Mermaid won the John Thomson Magic Moment of Theatre award for the underwater swimming scenes.

Will Huang ( J.D.), left,  and CAT Award winner Belle Nicol (Veronica Sawyer) in <i>Heathers the Musical</i>.

Will Huang ( J.D.), left,  and CAT Award winner Belle Nicol (Veronica Sawyer) in Heathers the Musical.Credit:Janelle McMenamin

Canberra Repertory also won six awards: Arms and the Man won for best costumes for a play (Anna Senior); Dr Frankenstein won best original work for Matthew Webster’s score; Happy Birthday Wanda June won best actor in a featured role in a play (David Bennett); One Man, Two Guvnors won best actor in a leading role in a play (Arran McKenna), best actress in a featured role in a play (Steph Roberts); and best direction of a play (Chris Baldock).

Dramatic Productions’ Heathers: the Musical won two awards out of its 18 nominations: best actress in a featured role in a musical (Chelsea Heaney); and best actress in a leading role in a musical (Belle Nicol).

It also received a CAT Awards Commendation “for raising over $12,500 for local charities through donating a proportion of takings from Heathers“.

The Silver CAT went to Canberra’s Joe Woodward and the Daramalan Theatre Company “for achieving a consistently and impressively high standard of student productions, for providing opportunities for, and mentoring students in all areas of theatre, including acting, directing and the composition and performance of original incidental music, and for successfully exposing students to the demands of significant main-stage theatre pieces, including, this year, Arthur Miller’s The Crucible”.

 <i>Arms and the Man</i> won the CAT Award for best costumes in a play.

Arms and the Man won the CAT Award for best costumes in a play.Credit:Helen Drum

Canberra’s Martin Searles received the Gold Cat for versatility and achievement in acting and set design throughout the year with a range of companies.

He appeared in lead roles in both musical and straight theatre, including in Radio on Repertory Lane, 12 Angry Men, and Shrek the Musical. He also designed, or co-designed, the sets for 42nd Street, Fame and Shrek the Musical.

For the full list of winners see

Ron Cerabona is an arts reporter for The Canberra Times.

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