Douglas Webster in 'Les Mis'
Douglas Webster in 'Les Mis' Stephen B. Thornton

Broadway coming to 'The Swich'

THE idea of performing on Broadway to most of us would be pure fantasy, but Ipswich will be playing a part in the next generation of performers to maybe one day tread the boards in the most famous theatre location on Earth.

International performer Douglas Webster, a man with over 30 years experience on stage, is for the first time bringing his 'Broadway Masters' program to Australia next month, and he's chosen Ipswich as the location.

Over several days Douglass will share his experiences, knowledge and teachings with people from all over Australia keen to learn from someone who followed his dream of performing.

Talking from his home in Colorado in the United States, Douglas is excited by the calibre of people who have sent in audition videos for the course which has limited numbers and is filling fast.

"This is an extension of a class I started doing in 1999 and it's exciting to be coming to Ipswich, we've already accepted some people, and I have lots more applications to go through.

"This is not a competitive program, as I'm looking for people who are lacking items in their skill set so at the end I can send them away with a complete set of skills. Of course if someone has those already I'll help them improve."

A seasoned performer, Douglas has experienced life as part of a huge production, and performing on stage takes lots of discipline and commitment.

"Doing a show on Broadway is normally eight shows spread over seven days. The only night you don't do a show is Monday. When I was due to start work on the Broadway version of Les Miserables my wife gave birth to our son, and I missed the first three days.


Douglas Webster in 'Les Mis' (above) and meeting Pope John Paul II
Douglas Webster in 'Les Mis' (above) and meeting Pope John Paul II

"I had a newborn in the house, so it was more about getting sleep at night never mind the daily routine of being in a show. I think it's a responsibility that there's an energy that a cast member needs to invest in the physicality of the character in each scene, and I know that everyone doing this Broadway Masters event are doing it for the love of it. They want to be there.

"I love the challenge of taking someone and having them walk out with new skills they can take to their new performance."

Douglas was expected to have a career in health, but always had a love for music which led him to make a deal with his late father.

"My whole family is involved in medicine, and at 17 my father asked me if I wanted to be the sixth generation to have a career the same as them.

"When I said no he immediately asked what about music, and I gave myself till I was 26 years old. I said to myself that I'll do this till then, and if it's not a success I'll rethink things.

"On my 26th birthday I was touring America with Les Miserables and making six figures!"

He has advice for people starting in the industry, going to auditions in the hope of finding that one big break.

"For me it's not about being thick skinned, it's more about not taking things personally. If I'm turned down for a job my resume is not going to look any better if I speak nicely to the people doing the hiring. I look at it as if you want a tradesman to work a machine they need to know how to do that, I accept that.

"When you walk out and say 'Thankyou and goodbye', you can't possibly know what all the reasons are for you not getting a role," Douglas said. "Your job is to show up, do the best to your ability, and they will remember you. They'll seek you out and say 'you weren't right for that role but you'll be good for this one', that's all you can hope for.

"I think if I could go back and tell my 18 year old self anything it would be get into real estate to be honest. I could have paid $18,000 for a block of land that's now worth $2 million!" Douglas said. "As a performer that's hard to say, I've been so happy with the way my life turned out. Every decision I've made I've been comfortable with. Some have cost me, but I suppose the best advice you can give to a young person is to learn, and then learn more. I've learned things from people because they know a lot and it's worth making the time."

Douglas has a house in South Park Colorado. Yes, THAT South Park that we all know and love from the TV show, which has left the town divided.

"Yes, I live in the real South Park in Colorado. Half the population love the cartoon, the other half hates it. I taught in South Park for a year as a music teacher. Some of the kids in my class remembered being interviewed as part of the research for the show when they were in Grade 3.

"The creators of the show grew up near South Park. I was part of a production in Latvia in the old USSR once, and the newspaper there wanted me on a horse out the front of the South Park saloon for a magazine photo...they were more interested in the fact that I was from South Park than the show I was doing!"

The Broadway Masters event sees Douglas team up with Mary Setrakian, who trained Nicole Kidman for her role in the blockbuster Moulin Rouge, so they make a team packed with experience.

"I've very excited about Broadway Masters in Ipswich," Douglas said. "I couldn't be happier the way the program is going. The participants are going to come away with some really valuable information and I'm looking forward to sharing it. I have three former students who are now performing on Broadway and three more who are teaching music."


Douglas will be assisted by Mary Setrakian
Douglas will be assisted by Mary Setrakian

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