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09 Nov 2017

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A jack of all arts

Since moving to Melbourne from his hometown of Wagga Wagga 10 years ago, local musical theatre guru Andrew Strano hasn’t lived anywhere else but here in Southbank.

An award winning lyricist, a director, improviser, dramaturge and musical theatre performer, Andrew first moved to Southbank as a 19-year-old to study at the Victorian College of the Arts (VCA) and has never left.

“I’ve always somehow been in Southbank because I do a bit of work here and have studied at the VCA so it’s always made sense,” he said.

“Melbourne is the only place I’d live in Australia because of the arts industry and the grass roots level support for it is so great. The arts in Melbourne is a very progressive environment and Southbank’s Arts Precinct is so amazing.”

Since the age of 15 Andrew has been pursuing his passion for performing arts and has performed, taught and presented theatre, film, TV, musical theatre and cabaret nationally and internationally.

However, he admitted that his “first great love” was musical theatre having both written and performed in a number of acclaimed productions.

His work Nailed It! alongside Lochlan Mackenzie-Spencer debuted to five-star reviews all over the world in 2015, including Edinburgh, London and the Adelaide Cabaret Festival.

And just last month, Andrew teamed up with longtime friend and composer Lucy O’Brien to present Jack of Two Trades – an inaugural commission of the Pratt Foundation Music Theatre Artists in Residence Program at Monash University.

His latest work was based on Bell Shakespeare’s musical theatre comedy Servant of Two Masters, which Andrew first witnessed as a 17-year-old drama student in Wagga Wagga,

“When I was a 17-year-old kid all four people in my high school drama class and I got in a car with my drama teacher to go see it on and it was just piss funny,” he said.

“The thing that surprised me about the work was how politically engaged it was for something written in the 1700s.”

“Because it’s a comedy you can kind of afford to make a point every now and then whereas in drama when you’re making a point it’s confronting. You’re not going to change people’s hearts and minds like that.”

Andrew said he loved musical theatre as it created a family of out of people through song and he was constantly enjoying the new challenges that writing presented.

Having now written two of his own productions at the age of just 29, he said he was already looking forward to his next projects.

“The thing they say about creative projects is that you don’t finish them you abandon them at some point!“ he said. “The dream is to always have two things on the go.”

“As we see one go, we’ve got one in the pipeline. I think a really important thing about writing that my old course co-ordinator at VCA said to me during my masters was ‘writers write!’ so we’re always busy looking for the next thing.”

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