After a year that challenged us all, Star Struck is back at the Newcastle Entertainment Centre on Friday, June 18 and Saturday, June 19 with an aptly themed show, Rise Up.
The show has been reimagined this year and is set to be a 90 minute performance, with no interval.
It will feature more than 3000 students, split across two casts, participating from more than 100 Newcastle, Hunter and Central Coast primary and high schools.
Rise Up is an extravaganza of music, dance, drama, singing and puppets and is presented by Public Schools NSW in partnership with major sponsor Glencore and media partners NEWFM, 2HD and the Newcastle Herald.
It is a high quality professionally staged arena event that is not to be missed.
You can find tickets at nec.net.au.
An epic effort
It is a show that has been 24 months in the making.
This year's Star Struck extravaganza features the talents of the Hunter's most gifted performers. It will be a stunning reward for participants and audiences after the 2020 performance was called off due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The audition process for the show began in 2019. In a rigorous process, including three rounds of auditions, a pool of hundreds of hopefuls is narrowed down to 32 soloists and 18 backing vocalists. The orchestra features 50 talented musicians, while there will also be rock bands and 100 feature dancers.
The theme for 2020, 'Rise Up', has been retained as a very fitting reflection of the tough times performers have been through over the last 18 months.
For Star Struck musical director Dan Wilson, Rise Up was about taking a stand and being positive in our own lives.
"Due to COVID, it's become even more meaningful. After what we've been through, it's exciting to be able to perform again. Life is getting some sort of sense of normality," he said.
Star Struck is an ever-evolving program, showcasing the best of what the Hunter public schools have to offer in terms of musical and dance performance.
"There is something quite magical about watching young people perform," Dan said.
"They are equal to anything you would see on The Voice or Australian Idol, or any adult performer. It's quite inspiring to see students performing at such a high level.
"In the finale, when you see thousands of students all coming together and performing in one space, there's a lot of power and it's inspirational to see so many people coming together for such a positive performance opportunity."
Dan would know, having been part of the Star Struck program since its early days.
After featuring as a solo performer and backup vocalist in 1993-1994, he continued to volunteer as a rehearsal pianist for the show while he was studying at university. He then came back to join the vocal team, becoming vocal director and finally musical director in 2008.
In the time of his involvement, he has seen the show change remarkably.
"Everything starts small. The more you do things, the more you want to push boundaries," Dan said.
The quality of the music programs running in our high schools is reflected in the size and excellence of the show's orchestra.
"The 10-piece band we had originally is now a 50-piece orchestra, and that's due to the hard work of music teachers in their high schools and the music program running in public education at the moment," Dan said.
"The show we do is able to cover so many different genres and styles of music, even across to the dance side of things - there's something for everyone.
"When we talk to the students, or the adults, or the teachers and supervisors for the show, everyone has a different favourite song. And I think that's a testament to the show.
"We're able to cover so many different styles that you'll like something, if not lots and lots of things."
Star Struck gives Hunters students a unique opportunity to perform in a large venue, complete with professional sound and lighting designers.
For some, it will be a once in a lifetime opportunity.