Linden Furnell has won the major prize at the 2016 Rob Guest Endowment grand final concert, taking home $20,000 for professional development in musical theatre.
Furnell (currently appearing in Kinky Boots) and five other grand finalists – Stefanie Jones (Sound of Music), Genevieve Kingsford (Light in the Piazza), Hilary Cole (Kinky Boots), Matthew Predny (Kinky Boots) and Du Toit Bredenkamp (Sound of Music) – each performed two musical theatre pieces with an orchestra at the Sydney Lyric Theatre, under the baton of Musical Director Kellie Dickerson.
The expert panel of judges (including Kelley Abbey, Guy Simpson, Andrew Pole and Michael James Scott) chose Furnell as the major prize winner after his performances of ‘Part of the Painting’ and ‘Moving Too Fast’.
The 2016 Rob Guest Endowment Gala Concert was the 8th annual event for the prestigious award and featured guest performances from leading musical theatre artists including principal members from Aladdin, the Helpmann Award winning Molly Barwick, Sasha Rose, Georgia Taplin and Bella Thomas who originated the role of Matilda in Australia, past winners Samantha Leigh Dodemaide and Blake Bowden, the 2015 Rob Guest Endowment winner Daniel Assetta, Paulini – star of The Bodyguard – and cast members from Dream Lover – The Bobby Darin Musical. The evening was hosted by Wicked alumni Lucy Durack and Penny McNamee.
The runners up each were awarded $1,500 and the $5000 cash prize for Melbourne’s East End Theatre District Artist Development Award (an initiative of Mike Walsh and the Marriner family) went to Genevieve Kingsford. The Playbill Future Prospect Award went to Kieran McGrath. This award, sponsored by Playbill, is a $1,500 cash prize to a semi-finalist who didn’t make the finals but the judges wanted to encourage to return to the competition next year.
2016 saw the return of two categories recognising further excellence in other areas of musical theatre. The Rob Guest Endowment Technical Award in Honour of Sue Nattrass was awarded to Ash Kurrle and the Rob Guest Endowment Musician Award was won by Emma Ford. Funded by the Capitol Theatre and the Sydney Lyric Theatre, both winners took home a $10,000 cash prize intended to help fund the tuition and experience needed to help them become leaders in their field.
The Rob Guest Endowment executive committee includes Kellie Dickerson, Stephen Found and Bernadette Hayes.
Rob Guest Endowment Patron, John Frost AM, says the Rob Guest Endowment Awards are an incredible legacy. “Rob Guest was an inspiration to all, and a great teacher and mentor to those he worked with,” said Frost.