A veteran at 23, director Caleb takes on ‘Dogfight’

Music director Caleb Campbell… “I understand how to get folks to do issues whereas not speaking all the way down to the individuals who already know.” Picture: Andrew Campbell (his dad)

EVERY yr, when the Canberra Critics Circle meets to deliberate on nominees for its annual arts awards, questions inevitably floor about what musical administrators do.

Curious, I dropped in on a Dramatic Productions’ rehearsal of “Dogfight The Musical”, which is about to take the stage at Gungahlin Theatre.

Caleb Campbell is the music director and I discovered him working alongside co-director Kelly Roberts and choreographer Nathan Rutups in an ideal steadiness of directorial enter. 

“Trendy” musicals, comparable to “Dogfight”, are a far cry from the outdated Broadway musicals the place the position of actor, singer and hoofer had been clearly outlined and separated. Now there’s an ensemble method that makes each creative choice an ideal steadiness of abilities.

“Dogfight The Musical” is derived from the 1991 movie starring River Phoenix; it follows a story of a doubtful type. The setting is ’60s San Francisco, and a bunch of marines are delivery out to Vietnam. 

They compete to carry the ugliest date to their get together that evening – sure, that’s sexist, however the plot, centered on one couple, Eddie and Rose, offers with that, asking questions that probe the characters as human beings.

Rutups and Roberts get the ensemble in place. 

Campbell’s fingers fly effortlessly as he introduces scenes with background music, accompanies the numbers and solutions questions concerning the songs from actors who go over to the keyboard to speak to him. It could be not possible to have the rehearsal with none one of many administrators.

Campbell just isn’t fairly 23, however he’s undoubtedly a veteran. He’s been taking piano classes since he was 5 and he was rapidly drawn into musicals at Lyneham Excessive then Dickson Faculty.

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He went on to the ANU Faculty of Music, majoring in jazz and linguistics, successful the college’s Terry Miles Prize in Jazz, the Winifred Burston Memorial Prize and the Erika Haas Prize, whereas additionally contributing authentic compositions on commencement days.

He has survived as a working musician on company gigs, which died off when covid got here alongside, and now he’s a busy everlasting piano trainer at Burgmann Anglican Faculty in Gungahlin, very helpful, he believes.

“Now I understand how to cope with children, the way to incorporate them into a gaggle when everyone seems to be at totally different ranges, and the way to get folks to do issues whereas not speaking all the way down to the individuals who already know,” he says.

His connections with Canberra Philharmonic, for whom he has performed on many exhibits and been musical director on “Magnificence and the Beast” and “Jersey Boys”, started when his piano trainer requested him to play at an audition. There he met director Jim McMullen.

“Repetiteuring [accompanying] in rehearsals is usually a bit difficult, as a result of piano books in jazz are sometimes written chord symbols, so that you simply don’t should play all of the notes,” Campbell says,

His private style in jazz runs to intellectually troublesome jazz pianists Mehldau, Gustavsen and Hamasyan, however their music is a far cry from what he does in musicals.

“After all I’ve completed all my classical grades after which afterwards I moved to jazz,” he says. 

“Later I discovered musical theatre, which introduced in all kinds of hybrid influences, in order that I’ve now completed jazz, pop, rock and light-weight classical… musical theatre is the one place the place you are able to do all of these.”

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It’s been fairly a studying curve. His musical path of “Jersey Boys”, a “get up and sing” present with numbers in eight-part concord, was completely totally different from “Dogfight”, which appears into the lives and feelings of abnormal folks.

“Dogfight” could also be coping with powerful points, however the numbers are hauntingly memorable they usually’re written by the successful duo of Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, greatest recognized for his or her work on “La La Land”, “Pricey Evan Hansen” and “The Biggest Showman”.

He’ll be conducting (largely with one hand) a band of six from the keyboard. He did have some personal classes in conducting from McMullen and lately did a masterclass with CSO director Jessica Cottis, so doesn’t rule out full conducting sooner or later.


“Dogfight The Musical”, Gungahlin Faculty Theatre, January 27-February 4.

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Ian Meikle, editor