She came, she saw, she cleaned up. The flying nanny Mary Poppins was a flyaway success on the Perth stage this year, positively packing them in at what is now the rebadged Crown Theatre and eclipsing the 2011 blockbuster musical Wicked as the highest- grossing show at the venue.
More than 165,000 people saw the Broadway and West End hit during its two-month run, starring Lisa O'Hare as Mary and Matt Lee as chimneysweep Bert.
Mary Poppins was the highlight of a big musical year in Perth as audiences also flocked to the remounted Broadway favourites Annie and A Chorus Line.
At the other end of the scale was the WA Academy of Performing Arts' exuberant mid-year production of Frank Loesser's How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying at the Regal Theatre.
A musical of a very different kind, Richard Strauss' intense revenge opera Elektra was one of the hottest tickets at the Perth International Arts Festival in February.
It had never been performed in Perth before and the WA Opera production received plaudits for young director Matthew Lutton and departing WA Opera artistic director Richard Mills. The short sold-out season marked the Australian debut of Danish soprano Eva Johansson and capped more than three years' work by the creative team.
"I feel a bit like I am floating in a dream," Lutton said at the time. "It is very affirming to feel that a project has been received so positively. So often you pride yourself in taking risks and embarking on ambitious projects and often opinion is really divided and often the works don't succeed."
The opening weekend of Elektra was a very strange one in Perth because it snowed in the middle of the city for the first time.
The summer storm stopped traffic and trapped thousands of people in the middle of St Georges Terrace. The blizzard started with a solitary feather, precipitating the start of Place des Anges - millions of pristine white feathers moulted and strewn across the sky by the French aerials performance troupe Les Studios de Cirque.
As reported at the time by _The West Australian _, if there were any doubts about art's capacity to transform a city, then Place des Anges put them to bed and tightly tucked them in beneath a cosy feather-stuffed quilt.
It was an exhilarating declaration that Perth's 60th Festival was under way. Further highlights of artistic director Jonathan Holloway's first Festival included James Thierree's solo circus show Raoul, the Brazilian dance company Grupo Corpo, Propeller Shakespeare's Henry V and The Winter's Tale, I Fagiolini's Striggio Mass in 40 Parts and Barking Gecko's unflinching teenage rampage Driving Into Walls.
Based on 500 interviews with WA teenagers, Driving Into Walls pulled no punches in its representation of the confusing and confronting world of our youth. Sharing the Perth Festival program with the depression- themed Shaun Tan adaptation The Red Tree, it marked a forceful coming of age for Barking Gecko Theatre Company.
The year saw a number of leading WA creatives head for the departure lounge. The artistic director of the WA Ballet, in its 60th year, Ivan Cavallari returned to Europe to head the Ballet du Rhin and Richard Mills left the WA Opera to run the Victorian Opera. They have been replaced by Belgian Aurelien Scannella and New Yorker Joseph Colaneri respectively. At the WA Symphony Orchestra, Paul Daniel's replacement after 2013 will be Israeli conductor Asher Fisch.
On the stage, WA Opera backed up its Elektra success with a wonderful rendition of Lucia di Lammermoor, starring a luminescent Emma Matthews, while the WA Ballet triumphed with its brand-new version of Pinocchio.
The WASO, under Daniel's baton, celebrated new horizons at its inaugural WASO Latitude new music festival at the Astor Theatre. Its highlights in the Concert Hall included Mendelssohn's Italian Symphony and its collaboration with the LA Guitar Quartet.
Major international and interstate tours included the 60th anniversary production of The Mousetrap, the stage version of Yes, Prime Minister, comedian Lenny Henry, Bell Shakespeare's School for Wives, Musica Viva's Amacord, Bill Bailey, the Vienna Boys Choir, Elaine Paige, Potted Potter, Mnozil Brass, the all-male Pirates of Penzance and the Trocks ballet corps, and the Australian Ballet's Romeo and Juliet.
Our State theatre company, Black Swan, had a mixed year, with solid seasons of Arcadia, National Interest and Boy Gets Girl let down by below-par productions of Hilary Bell's The White Divers of Broome, Tim Winton's Signs of Life and David Williamson's Managing Carmen.
The State Theatre Centre remained sadly under-used. Forbidding hire costs and an inadequate and under-funded in-house programming and marketing strategy (When will large billboards go up that can be seen from the CBD?) meant there were not enough shows or enough audience anticipation about seeing anything at either of the venue's two theatres. Such a theatre complex on the city doorstep ought to be a tourist magnet.
Perth Theatre Company was consistently fascinating with its three plays in the Studio Underground and Fremantle's Deckchair Theatre did well on stage with its seasons of The Magic Hour and The Fremantle Candidate. As good as they were, however, the tragedy was that not enough people were going to see Deckchair's productions and the company folded in October after 30 years of operation.
Deckchair's demise after producing more than 100 plays can be attributed largely to its artistic failures of the mid-2000s, the inadequacies of venue and location, and its inability to attract sponsors in Fremantle.But its collapse also points to the fragile state of play in the WA professional theatre scene. As Deckchair's artistic director, Chris Bendall, said at the time: "People have to support the remaining theatre companies so that the industry does not collapse around us."
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