Phuket’s got talent! A Night at the Popra, held at Underwood Art Factory’s new Junkyard Theatre on Dec 4 was the third of a series of charity shows run by Gary Crause of Legend Music and the Phuket Academy of Performing Arts. This time the show was centered around music from films, covering 36 songs from 34 popular movies.
Putting on such a spectacular show inevitably involved a huge amount of work from the cast, its producer Gary and his wife Debbie who managed the show’s many costumes. As well as raising a considerable amount of money for charity, the show also provided a fine opportunity for young new talent to gain experience and perform alongside seasoned professionals.
The raunchy chords of the AC/DC song It’s A Long Way To The Top opened proceedings and featured the ever-popular George Cordeiro dressed in schoolboy uniform as Angus Young. After that, the tight backing band of Chakrit Bilangload (drums), Rob Cooke (bass), Noel Trinadad, (keyboards), Blaze Crause (guitar) and Laura Sun (sax) took us through a rollercoaster of sing-a-long standards such as Purple Rain, We Will Rock You, Fame and I Will Survive for nearly four hours including breaks.
But if the backing band was a cake, then the singers inevitably were going to be the icing, with Rannze Davies, Cherie Horne, Dasha D’Aria, Ruby Redl and Bella Yongsakul all professionally delivering strong, confident vocals. However, for me, my good buddy George pipped them all to be the cherry on top with his energetic performance of some 1950s rock and roll standards such as Rock Around The Clock, Jailhouse Rock and Great Balls of Fire. George soon had everyone on their feet and ably showed the young pups that, at a spritely 72, he still has got more than what it takes! After an intermission for the charity auction of prizes generously donated by many local businesses, the fifth and final set finished with Gary himself singing “Let’s Do the Time Warp” and the whole cast dancing on stage.
Born in Zambia, Gary grew up in a family which had a keen interest in supporting others charitably. He did his two years national military service in South Africa in the mid-80s, during which time he fought in the Angolan civil war’s Battle of Quito Cuanavale. This, as we used to say when I served in the British army, was a Really Big Scrap as he was up against professional Cuban soldiers supported by heavy artillery, ground attack aircraft and armour. Having survived such an ordeal, Gary then went on to work in IT for Standard Bank, IBM and AT&T before starting his own record label and production company Legend Music in 2000. He relocated to Phuket with his family in 2010.
Gary has since become well known here for his charitable work, and if there were three words that I would choose to best describe Gary, they would be altruistic, organised and energetic. He was a founding member of One Phuket, which was formed last February this year to help those in most need of assistance as the COVID economic crisis battered Phuket’s economy. This charity was supported by other local charities, Class Act Media, 5 Star Marine and Prince of Songkla University. Some locals were suffering extreme poverty and others were literally starving. Something urgently needed to be done, and done quickly.
So Gary used his music production skills to spearhead local releases of the Phil Collins’ classic Another Day in Paradise, Bill Wither’s Lean on Me and Band Aid’s Do They Know It’s Christmas, all performed by local musicians and singers, and all to raise money and increase awareness. However, his greatest triumph until this latest show was the Lean On Me Live Festival held at the Blue Tree Arena last March, featuring many local bands which raised B250,000 to feed and help those most in need.
The Night at the Popera show alone raised B470,500 through the ticket donations and B455,000 through the Auctions and Silent Auction, giving a total raised of B925,500 to go towards One Phuket initiatives to help provide food security to people in need across Phuket and on nearby islands.
So who should be applauded as Star of the Show? George? Dasha? Cherie? Rannze? Perhaps Gary’s son Blaze gave us a clue when he told me backstage after the show, “It’s been a huge amount of work, with the show postponed four times because of COVID, but it’s been worth every moment for such a fantastic show. My dad did a terrific job picking people for their strengths and organising things. None of this would have happened without him. He’s the show’s unsung hero.”
OK, Gary… So maybe you weren’t the best singer of the night, maybe you didn’t play a blistering guitar solo, and maybe you really should have bid for those dancing lessons in the auction, but I’m 100% sure if it came down to a vote by the cast or audience, there would be no contest.
So Phuket Music Scene’s Star of the Show? It could only ever be you, Gary.
Time to take a bow, mate!
Andy Tong Dee is a local expat, musician and live music enthusiast. Follow him at www.phuketmusicscene.com
Source: The Phuket News