Maria Mercedes, Performer
As Luisa Contini in John Deitrich’s production of NINE, Maria Mercedes established herself as one of Australia’s leading ladies with a voice that pours straight from the soul, a powerful stage presence and dramatic talent, that is matched only by her exhaustive body of work.
Superlatives such as ‘ MERCEDES MAGIC ‘ …’ MAGNIFICENT MARIA ‘ have been used by critics to describe her talent, time & time again.
Her career as an actress / singer has now spanned over 30 years, encompassing television, film, cabaret, concerts, recordings, stage and her big love… music theatre.
Maria received critical acclaim for her performance in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s SUNSET BOULEVARD, playing the role of ‘Norma Desmond’, with the great stage director Trevor Nunn personally sending his congratulations.
Maria has also starred as ‘ Grizabella ‘ in CATS, ‘ Svetlana ‘ in CHESS, Sophie Lenz in Jim Sharman’s SHADOW & SPLENDOUR, ‘ Mama Morton ‘ in CHICAGO, ‘Miss Sherman’ in FAME, Liza, Barbara, Chita in the spoof FORBIDDEN BROADWAY, THE WORLD GOES ROUND featuring the songs of Kander & Ebb, ZORBA THE GREEK, GYPSY, THE VAGINA MONOLOGUES, and SERIOUSLY – PET SHOP BOYS REINTERPRETED…an original Australian concept by Dean Lotherington and David Knox with a season in both Melbourne and The Edinburgh Festival in Scotland.
Maria was the first woman in the world to play ‘ Frankenfurter ‘ in THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW.
In 2011 / 2012 Maria played the starring role of ‘Madam Giry’ in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s sequel to Phantom Of The Opera….LOVE NEVER DIES. Which was also filmed by Universal, with screenings worldwide before its release on DVD.
Her film credits include her compelling work in the acclaimed films DREAMS FOR LIFE (2005), HEAD ON (1998), PATRICK (1978), and lead roles in major Australian television productions including HOMICIDE, DIVISION 4, BLUEY, SPECIAL SQUAD, COP SHOP, PATROL BOAT, PRISONER, INSIDE RUNNING , PUGWELL, CODY, E STREET, THUNDERSTONE , WHIPPING BOY, NEIGHBOURS & GREEKS ON THE ROOF.
Most recently she was seen as ‘ Dora’ in the SBS series KICK, and as ‘Madam Breda’ in MISS FISHER’S MURDER MYSTERIES for the ABC.
Maria’s talents have been recognized by a Mo Award, an Aria Award for Nine – Original Australian Soundtrack, and nominations for both the Green Room Awards and the Sydney Theatre Critics.
Her role as Elena in Dreams For Life earned her a nomination for Best Actress in a leading role at The Cypress International Film Festival. In the 80’s she toured the rock circuit with her band King Hit.
Maria has made guest appearances on every iconic television variety programme including Young Talent Time, New Faces, Graham Kennedy’s IMT, The Don Lane Show, Good Morning Australia with Bert Newton, The Midday Show with Ray Martin & Kerrie Ann Kennerly, Bandstand, The Mike Walsh Show, Countdown, The AFI Awards & Hey Hey It’s Saturday.
Kiyomi Vella, Performer
With a voice overflowing with colour and a style somewhere between indie and Celtic infused pop, the quirky 18yr old is simply captivating. With a blend of influences ranging from the theatrical heartbreaks of 50’s musicals to the charismatically husky sound of Eskimo Joe, Kiyomi developed a flair for ‘left of centre’ arrangements.
Geelong born Kiyomi’s fanciful pop indie songs are uniquely stripped back musically, allowing her luminous vocal quality to take preference. Kiyomi’s ability to combine metaphorical thinking with catchy hook lines, allows her to paint unique lyrical scenarios.
Her appealingly naïve sound aligns itself with artists such as Angus and JuliusStone, Lisa Mitchel and Lilly Allen, while a touch of glitter woven throughout her music links Kiyomi with the imaginary qualities of Owl City.
In October 2012. Kiyomi released her debut EP “Good Out Of Fine” to iTunes. The EP was greeted with critical acclaim described as “a breath of fresh air”.
The ingredients to Kiyomi’s unique music style have been influenced by her Japanese and Maltese upbringing. Somewhere between assisting her Japanese mother to make homemade sushi and paper cranes, to her exposure to the Maltese skill of expressive verbal flow, Kiyomi’s musical flavour emerged.
Choosing fashion from edgy on trend designers, whilst adding her own vintage pieces to create a unique style, the quirky musician often draws upon her Japanese heritage with the use of traditional instruments. Kiyomi often plays the Japanese shamisen, a three-stringed musical instrument with a drum-like rounded rectangular body. Its traditional sounds are unmistakable in her EP track ‘I Miss You’.
Early in 2013 Kiyomi undertook the journey of The Voice. As an essential part of Team Joel, she progressed to the Top 8 gathering a legion of fans eagerly awaiting her next release.
Kiyomi has recently become an Ambassador for Pink Hope, an organization which strives to inform and provide a support network for those with a family history of cancer. She is very passionate about this cause and works with the organization to help create awareness.
Susie Ahern, Performer
Susie Ahern is one of Australia’s hardest working vocalists and vocal coaches. She has coached some of Australia’s best singers including Idol winners Guy Sebastian and Natalie Gauci. She is highly regarded as a session vocalist and has toured with artists such as Kylie Minogue, John Farnham and Anthony Callea.
Susie can be heard on albums with Renee Geyer, David Hobson, David Campbell, Shannen Noll and the Badloves.
More recently, Susie has been featured in a duet of Heart’s “Alone” with Anthony Callea on his latest release “Thirty”. Susie has also released two solo albums through ABC ‘s First Edition label. She is also well known for her work with vocal group, Adoration On The Gospel Train.
Susie has coached singers on many TV shows including Australian Idol, AGT, It Takes Two, The X Factor and Starstruck.
She has worked as varied voices on many Australian Comedy Shows including “The Castle”,” Boytown”, “Full Frontal”, “ Fast Forward”, “Talking Your Generation”, and “The Footy Show”.
Susie has worked as a backing and lead vocalist on many TV shows including, Dancing With The Stars, Good Morning Australia, Hey Hey It’s Saturday and Tonight Live.
Susie now concentrates her efforts imparting years of knowledge through Mamasusu Hub, developing young artists with potential to achieve success in a world market.
Emerging artists are encouraged to become the artist they were meant to be by working on vocal skills, the art of songwriting and production, performance skills and visual styling. Susie employs specialists in various areas to help build the foundation for successful careers with realistic goals. Individuality is encouraged as well as solid skill building. Students are encouraged to use social media as a fire starter and are given guidelines on how to build a fan base with the music they have created.
Susie has been operating her own Singing School in Williamstown for the past five years and has teachers specializing in various areas of voice and performance. The school runs regular master classes with Industry professionals, drama classes and guitar lessons .
Susie also specialises in teaching Contemporary Voice at VCE Level and has achieved great results ten years in a row, with students being asked to perform in ‘Top Act’ at the Iwaki Auditorium.
Another of Susie’s student’s, Kiyomi Vella, has recently competed in The Voice, making it to the Top 8 in Team Joel.
Ben Mingay, Performer
Ben Mingay is an actor, musician and international musical theatre performer who began as a rocker from Newcastle who divided his time between the construction site and the conservatorium of music. He is currently appearing the new Channel 10 drama series Wonderland playing the role of Rob and was most recently seen in final season of Packed to the Rafters in the role of Buz. Ben starred in the World Premiere production of An Officer and A Gentleman following a Sydney season in the award winning musical Jersey Boys in the role of Tommy DeVito.
In 2004, Ben originated the role of Billy Kostecki in the world premiere production of Dirty Dancing at Sydney’s Theatre Royal for Jacobsen Entertainment. He has since performed in every English speaking production of Dirty Dancing including the original Australian/New Zealand Tour, West End Premiere (London), North American Premiere (Toronto) and the U.S National Tour.
Other musical theatre credits include HAIR directed by David Atkins, the role of Stewpot in South Pacific, and the lead role of Billy in the original Side Show Alley workshop directed by Gale Edwards. Opera credits include The Pirates of Penzance, The Magic Flute, The Mikado and Don Giovanni. He performed as soloist for Opera in the Park in the Hunter and has sung the US national anthem for the Chicago Bears and the Boston Celtics.
As an actor Ben has appeared in guest roles on Australian TV dramas Blue Heelers and All Saints.
Georgie Pinn, Audio Visual Artist
GP is a multi media artist who has been flexing her creativity across Europe and Oz for over 15 years.She began as a director and editor of music videos here in Oz. After winning an Aria Spike she left for Europe where she developed further into motion graphics and animation. It was here that she worked the post pro scene in London and then co-established her own motion graphics/post company creating animated branding and title sequences for the likes of the BBC, Disney Channel, MTV and channel 4. At the same time she also continued to develop visual installation concepts for the events industry.
Her added ability to write and compose music means that her skills may be applied to a wide range of briefs. Having first hand experience in almost all levels of production makes her a good director and collaborator. She is at present being commissioned to develop and interactive installation for Federation Square.
Simon Myers, Producer
Simon has been producing films, promoting artists and presenting shows and concerts for the last 15 years.
His credits as a Producer include short films like Solvent, End Of Town and The Tank (starring Chris Haywood and Linda Cropper) that have been screened in festivals in New York, London, Berlin, Melbourne, Sydney, Wyoming and Palm Springs.
One of the films, End Of Town, was nominated in the 2006 L’Oreal Paris AFI Awards and went on to win the Emerging Australian Filmmaker Award at the 2006 Melbourne International Film Festival.
He worked as the Director’s Assistant on the 2006 motion picture Irresistible (starring Sam Neill, Susan Sarandon and Emily Blunt), and with Japanese producer Fumiko Homma, Simon co-produced the feature film Academy which was released in Japan in 2007.
In both 2007 and 2008 Simon produced The Antenna Awards for Australia’s Community Television sector.
In 2009, Simon produced The Man in Black: The Johnny Cash Story which won a Helpmann Award in 2010 (Best Australian Contemporary Concert).
As a Producer, Simon Myers has had a string of theatre successes; EVA – Tales From the Life of Eva Cassidy, enjoyed fourteen sold out performances and starred Clare Bowditch who brought the audience to their feet every night. As well, there was The John Denver Story; The Ultimate Rock n Roll Jam Session, Doris Day – So Much More Than The Girl Next Door; all of which featured fabulous musicians and musical arrangements. And all of his shows have bookings stretching well into the future.
But in a 180 degree change of direction, Simon produced Rachel Berger in an extraordinarily received one-woman play, Hold The Pickle which completed a season at the prestigious Arts Centre in Melbourne.
Over the years Simon – both as musician and promoter – has worked with many great entertainers including Shirley Bassey, John Farnham, Anthony Warlow, Tex Perkins, Melinda Schneider, Debra Byrne and Rick Price.
Moira Bennett, Producer
Moira Bennett is the CEO of Room 8 and TMIB Pty Ltd, companies exclusively set up to present concerts in Australia, the UK, Macau, Norway and China.
She has licences to produce eight or more different, well-tried and successful shows, with one of them, The Man in Black, having just completed a sold-out season at Sydney Opera House and now embarking on an Australia-wide tour.
Moira is well qualified to present shows that feature music – it has been her life for thirty one years.
In 1981, Moira was appointed manager of several record labels for the giant CBC. She worked in several countries with distinction. Two years later, Richard Branson selected her to head Virgin Records Australia – his first female senior executive.
Since then Moira has enjoyed a series of successful musical achievements. Among them a host of accolades – from three Countdown Awards to Best Debut Album, and Promising New Artist Award.
These were topped when one of her exclusive artists on her private label, Glen Hansard, won a Grammy in 2011.
In 2009, Moira watched, with interest, the birth of the Narrative Concert. Music was getting harder to sell due to piracy and new technology, and the future looked dour. But she rightly judged that Narrative Concerts were the way to go – showcasing local talent while paying homage to past greats. And CD sales after each gig were profitable for both artist and promoter.
Moira Bennett is not short of a product, and she intends to take it where demand is calling. Her contact book would be worth stealing….