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Odd Oz fete honors legit heroes

Parodies open second annual Helpmann Awards

SYDNEY — The Aussie legit community’s second annual Helpmann Awards, held in the Showroom of Sydney’s Star City Casino, was a rather boozy, friendly affair.

From 7 p.m., 850 industryites sat at tables laden with wine, beer, soft drinks and potato chips as the three-hour ceremony, honoring legit all-rounder, the late Sir Robert Helpmann, unfolded.

Emcee Simon Burke sang a little, danced a little and slayed ’em with snappy quips, both rehearsed and spontaneous. He fronted the sprightly opening medley, which parodied the four shows nominated for best musical: “Singin’ in the Rain,” “Sweeney Todd,” “The Wizard of Oz,” and “Mamma Mia!” Latter copped the worst of it because producers had refused permission for the band to play any tunes from the show — “Benny and Bjorn don’t approve of parody,” Burke nodded and winked.

The event was marked by many no-shows of award recipientsbecause, unlike on Tony night, no show goes dark for the upstart Helpmanns. Judi Connelli was in Melbourne but hates flying; dancer Steven Heathcote was rehearsing in Brisbane; Amanda Muggleton was onstage in David Williamson’s “Soulmates”; and lifetime achievement award winner Graeme Murphy was a few kilometers across town at the Sydney Opera House, watching his Sydney Dance Co. preview “Ellipse” ahead of its May 9 opening.

The only standing ovation of the night was reserved for producer Kevin Jacobsen, the other lifetime achievement recipient, whose enthusiasm — and 15-minute acceptance speech — eclipsed Murphy’s absence.