THE Les Twentyman Foundation is teaming with award-winning Australian musical theatre director and composer Warren Wills this month to run a new six-month community drama program, Embrace, in Melbourne’s West.
Physically and intellectually disadvantaged young Teens, from Melbourne’s Western Suburbs, are encouraged to join in the socially inclusive this program which culminates with a world premiere performance on October 12 at Caroline Chisholm Catholic College’s theatre.
Embrace, a free musical theatre program for secondary school students, is based on similar projects Mr Wills has led in Shepparton, Victoria, and several outer-London boroughs to a socially inclusive program to find a cultural common ground.
Over the past 15 years more than 10,000 young people from socially isolated communities and under-privileged backgrounds have played a part in musical theatre projects that Melbourne-born composer Mr Wills has led.
In the rural city of Shepparton, Mr Wills and fellow West End musical theatre producer Yamin Choudury ran a short pilot program of performing arts for 60 young people in 2011 with the backing of Latrobe University.
Youth outreach worker Les Twentyman attended a performance of the work they created, Ghost Gum High, at Shepparton’s Shepp Shed and expressed his interest in bringing an extended version of the program to Melbourne’s west, where Les Twentyman Foundation works with troubled youth.
Embrace rehearsals begin this month at two venues, Caroline Chisholm Catholic College in Churchill Ave, Braybrook and community Centers in Footscray, Sunshine and Braybrook
Mr Wills said although he will be writing the score for the production the ideas for the storyline, roles and staging are completely in the hands of the 100 teens he hopes will commit to Embrace.
“I want the kids to be engaged and as creatively involved in the development of the show as possible,” Mr Wills said.
“My mantra is diversity, inclusivity and quality. This work with youths of different backgrounds is genuinely transformational.”
Mr Wills has worked as an award-winning musical director and composer of West End and Broadway shows over the past 30 years with credits on more than 50 productions.
He has worked closely with actors Pamela Anderson and Woody Allen, and has played and composed for the Royal Shakespeare Company in the UK.
Splitting his time between London and Melbourne, this year Mr Wills will also direct the world premiere of his new musical Bowie and Mercury Rising at Chapel off Chapel from July 26 to 30.
As a performer in his own right, he has recorded eight albums and his range as a pianist encompasses cabaret, classical, opera and jazz.
Mr Wills will perform on June 8 with special guests at Dizzy’s Jazz Club during the Melbourne International Jazz Festival.