Joy Philippi will direct three musicals in Rockhampton over just twelve months
Joy Philippi will direct three musicals in Rockhampton over just twelve months

Talented Mamma cast sings for Joy in 2020

Joy Philippi loves the 10-day Performer/Artist challenge that's sweeping social media.

For those who haven't been nominated yet, it involves posting an image of a "fierce or memorable moment" in a performer's life.

"I see all these old photos being posted by Judi Scheuber and Christine Netherwood and Pat McKenna and some times, somewhere in the background, I can see me with their kids on my lap," Ms Philippi said.

from Joy's 10-day challenge on facebook
from Joy's 10-day challenge on facebook

"Now those kids have got their own kids coming up through the youth choir, same as my sister's children did, and it reminds me how lucky we are in Rockhampton to have so many opportunities to do what we love and learn from other people."

Learning from other people is a refrain which Ms Philippi, who just finished directing Phantom of the Opera only to start directing next year's Mamma Mia, will come back to many times during our chat.

There's her best mate, Kate McLoughlin, who took the teenage Philippi under her wing as the Rockhampton Music Union's production secretary, after sibling rivalry put an end to her onstage career.

from Joy's 10-day challenge on facebook
from Joy's 10-day challenge on facebook

"My siblings, Sonya and Chris, were the real singers so I went to the youth choir for a while but I quit," she said.

Then there's Dan Villers who, when she professed to being nervous her first time as stage manager, told her, "What you say, we do, so just get over it!"

And Grant Wolf Whitfield who is returning once again from his job on the luxury island of Mustique to appear in next year's Mamma Mia.

"We balance each other," she said of the professional actor turned yoga instructor.

"What I lack he has."

Also there's Wayne and Katie Kermond who are handing her the reins as director of the Rockhampton Council's annual musical theatre, the first time a local will be in charge.

"They keep it level, they work hard in a short amount of time and they have a knack of becoming part of the community," Ms Philippi said.

Her own place in the Rockhampton community stems from being raised in a loving and devout family.

"I used to talk to the Kermonds about it, that the theatre is its own form of religion," she said.

"Mine is centred around the figure of Christ and the scriptures but what we have in common is a belief in treating people with decency, using our gifts and living life fully.

"Anyone who knows my mother knows she centres us on just being good people and that's a real gift."

from Joy's 10-day challenge on facebook
from Joy's 10-day challenge on facebook

It can also make it hard for Ms Philippi who admits she's a "bit of a sook".

"You can't cast everyone or give everyone what they want all the time and sometimes my heart breaks for people," she said.

"I'm all about wrapping people up and making sure they're okay and that doesn't always happen in the theatre."

But the flipside is watching people reach their potential.

"I was watching cast members trying to nail the Masquerade scene in Phantom - some of them "popped their theatre cherry" in that show, so to speak - and the look of wonder on their faces when they did get it was just precious," she said.

"If I lose that sense of wonder watching them, I shouldn't be here."

Her Christian faith, though, doesn't preclude a strong sense of superstition.

"I get it from my grandmother on my Dad's side," she said.

"If I catch anyone whistling in the theatre or saying the Scottish word, I'll make them run three times around the Pilbeam anti-clockwise.

from Joy's 10-day challenge on facebook
from Joy's 10-day challenge on facebook

"I make people climb over chairs so they don't walk under ladders, and I'm scared of people knitting on stage."

Knitting?

"It's a thing!" she said.

In addition to another wonderful cast, whittled back from 120-plus auditions, Ms Philippi is joined at the helm of Mamma Mia by three other "second to none" locals: musical director Jeanette Douglas, choreographer Lita Hegvold and vocal director Jacinta Delalande.

In previous years, the Rockhampton Regional Council imported at least some of its directors from outside the region.

"There's so much talent on hand here, and it makes me really proud to work alongside people I grew up with and never stopped learning from," said Ms Philippi, who's been stage managing council musicals going back to Fame."

"And Kerrod Wells, who's worked beside me as assistant stage manager for ages, he's taking a step up too."

Ms Philippi thinks there's just as much talent in Central Queensland as on any world stage.

"The only difference between us and people who star on the West End in London, for example, is they give up everything else in their lives to go and work there," she said.

"Here, we've got doctors and teachers and chemists who actually get to perform more often than they do and are no less talented.

from Joy's 10-day challenge on facebook
from Joy's 10-day challenge on facebook

"It's just about where you put your life energy, and for many people that's about staying where you came from and for some it's raising a family."

The Philippis didn't have a cassette recorder at home when Joy grew up, so she's not sure quite how she came to have a copy of ABBA's Arrival album.

"It's the one with the helicopter on the front, right?"

But she's looking forward to moving out of the Phantom's gloomy lair and onto the sunwashed Greek islands.

"I just came from a meeting with Jim (the lighting designer) and, when he asked me what I wanted, I said lots of light… light and bright and a little bit of disco," Ms Philippi said.

"I haven't been to Greece but it makes me think of double-storey buildings and archways and cobblestone pathways so that's what I'm getting."

In addition to directing Mamma Mia, and then Emmaus College's production of West Side Story, Ms Philippi will be busy with her new role as the Catholic Church's executive officer of mission.

from Joy's 10-day challenge on facebook
from Joy's 10-day challenge on facebook

"It will involve a lot of travel between Bundaberg and Mackay and out to the border, but the church is really supportive of my work with the theatre," she said.

"Faith is something that's good for me, so it's about figuring out how to make relevant for other people."

It seems like a punishing schedule.

"Sometimes I think I'd like to have a Sunday off or go to bed early, but then I'd probably get bored," Ms Phillip said.

And before she rushes off to another meeting, this time with her choreographer, I ask Ms Philippi whether she'll be making a cameo appearance at the end of Mamma Mia in a spangly jumpsuit.

from Joy's 10-day challenge on facebook
from Joy's 10-day challenge on facebook

"Heck, no!" she said.

"My days of being on stage are over now.

"I'm too much of a control freak".

Tickets are on sale now for Mamma Mia from 13-21 March 2020.



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