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STAG at war, with Aussie spirit alive

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March 03, 2018

Getting excited: Actor Wendy Russell will play 'Eunice' in STAG's musical next month.

Shepparton Theatre Arts Groups actors are well and truly in the swing of rehearsals with Dookie — The Musical just over a month away.

‘‘We’re about to hit full runs, running the show from start to finish,’’ producer Gemma Merchant said.

An adaptation of its 2016 play Dookie, STAG’s musical version will feature ‘‘a different cast’’ and present a ‘‘different feel’’.

‘‘The musical raises awareness about the struggles returning servicemen go through,’’ Ms Merchant said.

‘‘We’ll have over 35 people on stage in some scenes in conjunction with a full orchestra.’’

Ms Merchant said the show would be a world-premier, having been written by local John Head with lyrics by Helen Rankin and Wade Gergory.

‘‘It’s pretty unique and pretty special. The audience will experience a whole gamut of emotions — you’ll really be drawn in.’’

The core story focuses on men who fought in World War I and touched on the Australian ‘‘help our neighbour out’’ theme.

‘‘If you’ve been involved in a local group, you’ll know the characters. Twenty casseroles in your freezer-type situations,’’ Ms Merchant said.

Actor Wendy Russell, who plays Eunice in the musical, says her ties with Dookie and affinity with rural communities meant she enjoyed the role immensely.

‘‘I was brought up in Pine Lodge on a soldier settlement. My aunty Margaret Law was given an Australian of the Year for her work in Dookie and Dad had a contract to bale hay at Tallis Winery for years,’’ she said.

Mrs Russell joined STAG in 2000, has been acting all her life, but said this might just be her favourite musical yet.

‘‘It’s orginally written by local people I respect. So much humour and the music is superb. Being an original, people will have a laugh and a tear,’’ she said.

‘‘It’ll be poignant on ANZAC Day, in honour of the Dookie fallen soldiers who lost their lives. Many of which still have relatives in town today.’’

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