The Luigi Lucente is now in its third year and has quickly become an important part of the Australian theatrical landscape, not only for the opportunities it grants recipients but also for the Rob Guest Endowment Concert, which is the culmination of each year’s activities and is an anticipated evening of stellar entertainment, involving performances from the finest in the Australian theatre industry and honouring the memory of much-loved star, Rob Guest OBE.
The six finalists have been selected for the 2011 Rob Guest Endowment and will all be performing at the 2011 Rob Guest Endowment Concert presented by ANZ Trustees to be held on Monday 10th October at Her Majesty’s Theatre, Melbourne alongside the best in the Australian musical theatre industry. The recipient will be selected by a panel of industry experts and will be announced at the conclusion of the concert.
After the sudden death of Rob Guest, OBE, in October 2008, and in recognition of his achievements in the musical theatre industry, ANZ and ANZ Trustees established a memorial fund in his honour to help emerging young performers in musical theatre. The ANZ Trustees Foundation: Rob Guest Endowment will be awarded each year to an emerging musical theatre performer selected by a panel of industry experts. The Award will provide the emerging performer with further knowledge and training in the industry to develop their potential.
The Endowment is currently entering its third year and under the guidance of the Endowment’s representative committee, John Frost OAM, Tim McFarlane, Bernadette Hayes and Kellie Dickerson, it has awarded two Rob Guest Endowment Awards to Danielle Matthews (2009) and Francine Cain (2010) and delivered two wonderful concerts staged at Her Majesty’s Theatre, Melbourne.
The purpose for 2011 is to keep growing the Endowment through fundraising initiatives including the 2011 Rob Guest Endowment Concert, sponsorship contributions and bucket collections at various musical theatre shows across the country.
The endowment aims:
To build a supportive community for upcoming musical theatre artists where they can seek support and opportunities from leading industry experts;
To choose six performers annually who they feel are of great potential and value to the industry and introduce them to the musical theatre community;
Provide one day per year where all facets of the industry join together for a night to remember Rob Guest OBE and to usher in a new generation of musical theatre performers;
To build a strong reputation around the Award where the winners will be recognized throughout the industry as being rising stars with a fruitful future.
ASHLEA PYKE: Ashlea trained from an early age at the Ballarat Ballet Centre and with the Barbara Lynch Dancers. She was vocally trained by Constance Coward-Lemke. Ashlea began her professional career at age 17 when she joined the Australian cast of We Will Rock You. Ashlea then played the lead role in Gary Ginivan’s original Australian children’s musical, My Grandma Lived In Gooligulch. Other theatre credits include the Production Company’s Oklahoma! and TML’s SHOUT! Ashlea was also lucky enough to perform in the original cast of Eddie Perfect’s Shane Warne the Musical. After giving birth to her first child, Otis, in 2009, Ashlea has spent the last year with her amazing Hairspray family, understudying the role of Penny. Ashlea is honoured and extremely excited to be a given the opportunity to be a part of this year’s Rob Guest Endowment.
GRETEL SCARLETT: Gretel Scarlett graduated from WAAPA in 2008 after being awarded the prestigious Leslie Anderson Award for the best overall Showcase Performance, The Hal Leonard Award and the 2007 Finley Award. Upon graduation, Gretel was cast in the 2009 Australian tour of Breast Wishes making her professional debut in the role of Sal. Gretel was then cast in the 10th Anniversary Tour of Mamma Mia! understudying and performing the main juvenile roles of Sophie Sheridan, Ali, and Lisa. Gretel is also currently appearing as the Witch’s Mother in the 2011 Australian tour of Wicked, as well as understudying the role of Nessarose. She will be continuing her Wicked journey as part of the 2012 International tour, and is thrilled to also be the Elphaba understudy. Gretel’s theatre credits include Hello Again, Oklahoma!, Sweeney Todd, West Side Story and the lead role of Mrs Johnstone in WAAPA’S production of Blood Brothers. Having completed her Trinity & AMEB Classical Voice and Speech/Drama Examinations, Gretel also studied full-time Classical Ballet at Alegria Dance Studios under the guidance of RAD Dual Examiner Hilary Kaplan, completing her final RAD Examination (ARAD), Cecchetti Ballet Exams as well as Contemporary, FATD Jazz & Tap. Gretel’s choreographic credits include official WAAPA Choreographer for Sweeney Todd and Loving Repeating, Associate Choreographer for both Hello Again (WAAPA) and also Hello Again (Darlinghurst Theatre).
KIRBY LUNN : Growing up on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, Kirby discovered a love of the stage and all things musical theatre, performing in numerous local and Brisbane productions and concerts before making her professional debut in the Brisbane season of Eurobeat – Almost Eurovision in 2009. Kirby relocated to Melbourne in 2010 to further her musical theatre career and at just 18 years of age she was cast in the musical Hairspray. So for the last year Kirby has been performing in the ensemble and understudying the role of the loveable Tracy Turnblad, a character she has had the privilege and joy of playing on many occasions. Kirby is delighted and honoured to be chosen as a finalist in this year’s Rob Guest Endowment.
LUIGI LUCENTE: Luigi has spent the last two years performing in the Melbourne and Sydney seasons of Jersey Boys. As a swing in the show, he’s enjoyed playing a wide variety of roles, none bigger than his chance to perform as Four Season member Bob Gaudio. Prior to this he made his major musical theatre debut in the star-studded Donmar/Ambassador production of Guys And Dolls, in where he played Society Max and Joey Biltmore and also understudied Benny Southstreet. Other notable theatre credits include The History Boys, Opera Australia’s Brundibar, Bryant and Frank’s The Silver Donkey and Anthony Crowley’s The Wild Blue. Luigi was also a guest artist with EMMY award-winning songwriter Lance Horne in his Melbourne concerts. On screen Luigi played Carlo Basilone in the HBO mini-series The Pacific and has also appeared in a number of other Australian television productions. An enthusiastic musician and songwriter, last year also saw the release of his first original CD. Luigi is utterly thrilled to be named a finalist in this year’s Rob Guest Endowment, and wishes to thank his family, friends, agents, mentors and many teachers for their support and belief.
BLAKE BOWDEN: Blake is a graduate of The McDonald College of Performing Arts and holds a B.A. from Sydney University. He currently studies singing with Glenn Winslade. On stage Blake has played the role of Abdul in Louis Nowra’s Beatrice, Corey Matthews in Debra Oswald’s Skate for ATYP and Meryl Tankard’s VX18504 for ATYP at Carriage Works. Music theatre credits include Dirty Dancing Australian and New Zealand tour for Jacobsen Entertainment, The Boy From Oz Arena Production National Tour for Ben Gannon and Robert Fox and touring Korea in the TML production of Jekyll And Hyde. Blake was also member of the classical vocal group  ARYA whose performance highlights include Woolworth’s Carols in the Domain in 2008 and touring nationally in The Never Say Never Tour with Wendy Matthews and Ian Moss. Most recently Blake toured Australia in A Midsummer Nights Dream for Arts Radar playing Lysander, he appeared as a principal artist in the international tour of The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber and as soloist at Angel Place Recital Hall and The Arts Centre Melbourne in a tribute concert The Sound of Rodgers. In 2010 Blake appeared in the Australian tour of West Side Story for The Ambassador Group in which he played the role of Snowboy, understudying the lead roles of Tony and Riff, which he performed regularly.
JAMIE WARD: As most do, Jamie began performing as a child, and it only seemed natural to pursue something he was truly in love with. It was also his love of sports and a protective mother that furthered Jamie’s career as an actor. Heavily involved in motor racing and BMX, Jamie soon discovered the down side to going fast – a fractured wrist and a rolled go-kart meant focusing on the dream of going to WAAPA to study musical theatre, seemingly two very different ends of the spectrum, yet two things Jamie wishes to have in his life forever. As a 17 year old, Jamie began WAAPA with confidence and a somewhat large ego, but he soon discovered how little he knew about honest and truthful acting, a journey which he hopes he can continue. During the beginning of 3rd year, Jamie was lucky enough to play the role Hanschen in STC’s production of Spring Awakening, and graduated with the amazing opportunity of being a part of John Frost’s Dr Zhivago. Recently he also made his film debut, playing the lead role of Sonny in Gary Sofarelli’s Lotus. Jamie wishes to not only thank his loving parents Susan and Richard for their never ending support, but also every mentor and fellow actor who has helped him grow as a person, and he looks forward to the exciting journey that is unfolding.
Awarded an OBE for his services to the New Zealand Entertainment Industry Rob Guest began his career in the New Zealand pop charts. He performed in more than 40 musicals and TV productions in New Zealand, Asia and America. He won overnight fame when, after coming to Australia to audition for Cameron Mackintosh’s production of Les Misérables he took over the lead role of Jean Valjean and performed it as he toured Australia and New Zealand for the next three and a half years. In 1995 he went to London at Cameron Mackintosh’s invitation to appear in the 10th Anniversary production of Les Misérables. In 1992 he was cast as The Phantom of the Opera in Cameron Mackintosh’s Australian production and performed the role for a record 2,289 performances over seven years. Rob Guest had the role of The Wizard in WICKED when he died shortly after midnight on Thursday October 2, 2008 with his family and friends at his side. Rob was 57.

The 2011 winner of the ANZ Trustees Foundation: Rob Guest Endowment Award will receive a $10,000 cash prize to be used to further their training. The 2011 judges and committee will remain on hand for the winner all year to assure they get maximum support and opportunities from the award.
Monday, 10th October
Her Majesty’s Theatre, Melbourne
Tickets on sale now
$25 – $80 from Ticketek:
Tel: 1300 795 012