05/10/2004 - 22:00

MS Society turns theatrical

05/10/2004 - 22:00

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The Multiple Sclerosis Society of Western Australia has taken a theatrical approach to fundraising through staging a pro-am production of the King and I at The Regal Theatre from October 14 to 23.

The society claims that its staging of the event is a first for a WA charity, given the scale of the production and the venue.

It will feature a cast of more than 70 locals, including 38 children.

The idea comes from the society’s South Australian sister organisation which has produced sell-out pro-am productions such as The Wizard of Oz, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, Jesus Christ Superstar and Les Miserables.

The South Australian events were driven by MS Cociet of SA events and public relations manager Shane Davidson who happens to be a well-known South Australian theatre director.

MS Society of WA CEO Marcus Stafford said the South Australian experience had given the society the confidence to go on with the production.

However, he said it was also about diversifying the society’s income stream and putting the society in touch with its target audiences of women and families.

The MS Society of WA generates more than 75 per cent of its annual $6 million income itself, mainly through traditional fundraising activities.

The society is confident that this initiative will help raise its fund raising bar further.

"We raise about $1.7 million from raffles so this production is about diversifying our income," Mr Stafford said.

He said more than 75 per cent of MS sufferers were females, hence the need to reach them specifically.

"Also, the disease affects the person’s family through them," Mr Stafford said.

"We’ve also had some good support from businesses making block bookings."

With those extra funds, the society will be able to do more to help improve the quality of life of those with multiple sclerosis.

Tickets range in price from $35 to $50.

The MS Society hopes to sell 9,000 tickets and has already sold 5,500 with about two weeks to go until opening night.

Helping the society with the production is On Stage Productions, which has produced shows such as The Wizard of Oz, Les Miserables and My Fair Lady.

Director Neroli Burton has a solid background in musicals and pantomimes, including stage roles as Maria in The Sound of Music and Eliza in My Fair Lady, Golde in Fiddler on the Roof and Anna in the King and I.

The MS Society has recruited Black Swan Theatre Company production manager David Filshie as production manager for this event.

Filling out the senior backstage roles are musical director Chris Ryland and choreographer Michelle Manning.

The key backstage people are the professional part of the pro-am with the actors predominantly up and coming amateurs.

Mr Stafford said while the professionals were getting paid, they had entered into the spirit of the fundraising occasion with their wage requests.

Multiple sclerosis is the most common neurological disorder in Australia.

For more information on the show phone 9365 4888.

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