Review by Trevor Connell*
This year’s Royal Easter Show main arena feature entertainment program reunited the team that produced The Man from Snowy River spectacular for the RES in 2000 and 2001
Hamish Turner and Andrew Cooper were working for the RAS NSW back then while Terry Goodear headed the now disbanded Carlton Draught Clydesdale team.
Hamish is now CEO of R M Williams (a major sponsor of the Show) and Andrew runs his own event management company.
Hamish pitched the concept to the RAS for last year’s Show and they decided to go with it for this year.
Andrew and Terry then developed the concept of the production and set about sourcing the coaches for the event from Don Ross – who also has a long association with the RES (remember chariot racing and chuck-wagon racing). Ross supplied the four rebuilt or reproduction coaches while Westpac supplied an original.
The horses and riders are many of the same guys who were in the Snowy production with Jason Sharpe, John Kelly, Rodney Crump and Steve Ninnes the team leaders and suppliers of the loose horses.
The production had a number of days pre-production work off-site and then the entire team came together for three days on onsite rehearsal.
The soundtrack for the show was produced by Jamie Green and features the voice of Adam Whitby.
A team of 80 horses are used in the production – 26 horses for the coaches alone.
So how did it look?
Unfortunately there had been an accident with one of the horses the night before I saw the show so the pace had been pulled back, so it lacked the drama that would have lifted it to full excitement. However the storyline was solid and easily understood, but most importantly it was on a scale that suited the arena, and this is the most difficult thing to achieve in this arena. There are really only two events that I can think of that consistently fill out the whole arena – the Grand Parade (which can be rather tedious as it takes so long to get to its peak) and the precision driving team. Others such as Robosaurus and the Moto X display tend to be limited to a section of the arena at any one time.
The Man from Snowy River show has probably been the most successful at combining drama with spectacle to fill that arena – so it was good to see that level achieved again.
ASE put some questions to Andrew Cooper
What was the biggest challenge for the team in putting this show together?
A very good question!!! As you know there are manner factors that are a challenge for the Show with a limited budget, rehearsal time on site (remember the grass issue) and lighting and audio production that is short on to really give an impact in this large area. We were discussing the lighting issue one day during the show and Paul Collision who operated for Chameleon noted that for the Commonwealth Games they had over 1000 lights in a smaller area and we had 70. That’s the challenge.
However Iain Reed from 3200 Lighting (Lighting Designer) and the Ian Cooper from Norwest (Audio) did a great job to achieve what they did with limited resources.
In regards to the production itself the challenge is always creating a storyline that works for this show audience and creating lots of raw energy, as we are there to entertain. I was really pleased with the quality of our show in regards to the script and soundtrack, however as you mentioned we were short on that energy to get people on the each of their seat. The weather did make it difficult to get into full swing and I think we ended up with only four or five dry nights out of the 14 performance nights. That makes it hard to get the confidence to hit top gear.
The story itself was fascinating to research and we could have used so much material but at the end of the day we only had 30 minutes to achieve an overview of the story of Cobb and Co and still make it fun. It is a story that needs to be told on a larger scale, as they were tough times and even tougher people back then.
Are there plans for next year yet?
I understand the RAS were really happy with our show and we are hoping to have another opportunity again next year to back it up with a bigger and better production. The interesting thing for next year is the modification to the arena for the new AFL team so half of the stadium is being up graded with more under cover seating, corporate facilities and the arena itself will be slightly larger so new challenges and better facilities are hopefully ahead of us.
What feedback did you get from the GP?
Generally very good and I have had a lot of people say they enjoyed the production and appreciated the complexity of six teams performing in difficult conditions. It all comes back however to the wow and the GP are the ones who give you the best feedback on this.
*ASE publisher Trevor Connell was Production Manager for the final RES Main Arena entertainment at Moore Park and then Entertainment Operations Manager for the first two Shows at the new Olympic Park Showground