Posted on 28 April 2011.
By Kristy Johnson
He became a household name through So You Think You Can Dance and was a perfect fit for street dancer Leroy in FAME, so what can we expect from Tim Omaji next?
A back injury during his time with FAME could have marked a disaster for Tim, yet it was this unfortunate event that enabled the star to focus on producing music. “Before FAME wrapped up, I injured my back and was off dancing from October to early January”, says Tim. “Some of the crazy moves I used to do I’m kind of hesitant to do now, but it gave me the opportunity to really focus on producing music. I had the opportunity to work with DJ Poet, who is the official DJ of the Black Eyed Peas. We wrote a couple of songs together and it really kind of put music on the focus.”
So how does one manage to score such an impressive gig? “It was all through management,” says Tim. “My management had also approached DJ Poet to work with other artists as well. They said this guy is coming up, his music is similar, let’s work together.”
Timomatic fans can expect to hear these tunes on the airwaves soon. “Hopefully in a couple of months. These kind of things are really up to them – their side of the ball. They take the tracks back to the States and work on it there. Obviously they have a million projects and I guess as an up-and-coming artist in Australia, it may not be a priority. But I’m hoping,” says Tim.
Whether or not we get to hear these tracks straight away, you can expect to see more of Tim in the entertainment scene. “Entertainment on a whole is what I’m about right now. I think music and dance can’t live without each other. Music obviously is an expression through melody and harmonies which I’ve never wanted to not do, and then dance is the expression of music. But when I hear music I start dancing,” says Tim.
He might be working with the big guns in LA, yet Australia will always be Tim’s home base. “I would love to go and make a name in the US. I see myself as an international global artist of the future, but I love Australia and always want to keep it my home and my base.”
Besides working with DJ Poet, Tim has already produced an album. “When I was in FAME I recorded a somewhat debut album. There was quite a lot of down time around the shows, so I edited, produced, recorded and wrote 25 tracks. Out of those I chose about 12. Come opening night, my back goes out, and it was kind of pushed to the backburner. I plan to re-release that as well as release a studio album signed to a label by the end of the year,” says Tim.
What kind of beats can we expect to be rocking to? “I see my style as being an eclectic style, but I think the base of it will be R&B because that’s kind of where it started. It will be R&B through different styles. I see myself as a Ne-Yo, Usher and Michael Jackson mix: music that makes people want to dance and feel good.”
Posted on 31 July 2010.
By Kristy Johnson.
We’ve seen them grace our screens on So You Think You Can Dance, and these much loved dancers are now making their mark in the world of musical theatre.
Dance Informa caught up with Talia Fowler, Jack Chambers, Timomatic Omaji, Marko Panzic and Hilton Denis, who are currently starring in FAME, West Side Story and Hairspray across the country!
Starring as ‘Iris Kelly’ in FAME.
So Talia, what drew you to want to try out for FAME the musical?
I had just got back from my performance in the US. I arrived back and actually got a phone call from Kelley Abbey. At that time I was with an agent kind of preparing to go back to the US and do the ballet thing. Kelley said to me “I’m directing and choreographing a new musical called FAME. I want you to watch the movie and check out this character, because I think you would be great for it and I’d love for you to audition.” So from there I watched the movie. I rented it straight away, liked the character and then went through the process of auditioning for the role.
Has working with Kelley again been to your advantage as she already understands your strengths and weaknesses?
Oh definitely. I think obviously So You Think You Can Dance would have been a big factor in me getting this role because they’ve already seen how I perform on stage and Kelley knew what my work ethic was like. So that was a big draw card, I think. And of course when Kelley was choreographing the show she knew that there were a few steps that were my specialty. She put them in the choreography so she could make it a part of us.
Touring can be quite exhausting. How do you keep on top of your game?
It’s really important for us to get our internal body clocks right. We finish a show at 11 o’clock at night and it’s important that we get some sleep that night and that we can still get up and do things the next day. It’s very important to change your schedule so you’re still being fuelled at the right time, so that you have enough energy to perform for 8 shows a week.
What is your schedule like?
At this point in the show we don’t actually have rehearsals at all before we do the shows because it’s been running for a while. So the show’s sitting pretty comfortably with all of us. I’ll start my day with a class at 9am. Just a ballet or classical class to really get my technique, feel my body and activate all the muscles for the day. Then it’s time to go home, do some normal things, have my lunch and make sure I get in some ‘chill’ time. Then in the afternoon I usually go to the gym and do some strength training. Then I come back, cook myself a healthy meal and go into the theatre two hours before the show. I spend the first hour getting ready – doing my hair and makeup, sewing new pairs of shoes or breaking shoes in. At hour call we have a group warm up…..and then it’s showtime!
Have you always wanted to perform in musicals?
No, not at all. It was never on the cards. I’d never seen any musicals until after So You Think You Can Dance, and then I got approached by a few people. My management let me know about it and that there was a role that would really suit me. I’m always up for a new challenge – something that will stretch me and something I haven’t tried before, so I was like “yeah let’s do it!”
What’s it like to work alongside Kelley Abbey again on FAME?
Kelley is an amazing choreographer and director, and I think she’s just amazing at dealing with people as opposed to just dancers. She’ll bring out the best. She’s really brought out the best in me through both So You Think You Can Dance and FAME, but more closely FAME because she’s so tailor made to you and what you do. And she doesn’t just put her ideas on you. I’ve soaked up all the energy, inspiration and passion that she kind of exerts.
Coming from the hip hop scene, have you been challenged by musical theatre?
Definitely. Through what I used to do, we didn’t really have to have a character and follow the path of a character. I think the main challenge for me was the acting. I’d done music before, so putting my energies into a character was probably the hardest, newest thing I’ve had to face. Even though you’re dancing, everything you do has an intention behind it. That’s what Kelley would teach us.
What would be your highlight so far whilst touring?
You know what, for me it’s just growing. Growing is a passion you need to endure more as a performer. It’s one thing to do a show and just leave it, but it’s another to be able to sustain a show. I think that’s taught me a lot about perseverance and endurance and to really keep my eye on the ball. If anything, I’ve learnt a lot about treating the body right.
In Hairspray, the character of Tracy Turnblad has a passion for dance, wins a spot on a television program and through this becomes a teen celebrity. Do you feel this transition mirrors your life, having won So You Think You Can Dance and gaining international recognition?
Now that you mention it, yes, Tracy’s life in Hairspray kind of mirrors what my life has been in the past few years! The only difference would be that I’m skinny and male!
The creative team behind Hairspray is quite phenomenal with David Atkins directing and Jason Coleman choreographing. What’s it like to reunite with Jason since the show?
It was wonderful to see Jason Coleman again. I am really looking forward to working with him in an atmosphere where he won’t be judging me! I’m also really looking forward to working with David Atkins. It’s a very exciting creative team, as well as cast, so rehearsals will be an absolute blast.
Any advice for dancers who would like to work in musicals?
My advice would be to continue your training to keep your ‘triple threat’ abilities up to par. Theatre is all about charisma and personality, so it’s important to let that shine through when you’re auditioning.
Starring as ‘Moose’ in West Side Story
Why did you try out for West Side Story?
It’s one of the greatest musicals of all time, so that’s why I wanted to do it. It’s a classic and everyone knows about it.
With musicals, you need to be a triple threat. How have you made sure to hone all your performance skills?
Before West Side Story I had to go to a lot of singing lessons because I’m not that much of a singer. I’m lucky that the cast members are so amazing because I can learn off them as well. I’ve had to work on acting as well. By watching other NIDA graduates act I learn off them. They give me advice and by just watching them do their own thing you pick up different strategies on how to improve yourself.
What would an average day entail for you?
We do 8 shows a week. We’ve got two shows on Wednesday and Saturday. I train in martial arts for a bit, just for fun. And on top of that I just choreograph. I’m always choreographing.
What does your role as Dance Captain for FAME involve?
Kelley choreographs and directs the show and then she leaves the show. So all the choreography and all the dance is left in my hands. I have to work on keeping Kelley’s original choreography and make sure that it stays exactly how Kelley wants it. So I’m keeping on the dancers, making sure everyone is doing their job properly. We also have swings off stage, so my role involves keeping the swings and understudies in use. We rehearse to make sure they’re ready to go on at any point if anyone goes off. So I have to rehearse all the understudies and swings.
Any advice for those dancers who want to get into musicals?
Take class and get fit. It’s about being ‘show fit’. When doing a show like this your body has to be able to handle it. I was choreographing a lot before I did the show. So I had to go into the gym and start looking after myself in a different way, because when you choreograph you don’t dance as much. So I would really tell people just not to be lazy. Musical theatre is a hard world. You have to have the look, you have to have the body and you have to have the fitness. You have to go in with the package because you only get that audition to show everything off. You can’t get the job and then work towards it. You have to be ready.
Want to see these dance stars in action? Make sure you get tickets to FAME, West Side Story and Hairspray and support Australian theatre.
FAME photos courtesy of Jeff Busby.
Hairspray photo courtesy of Belinda Strodder
Posted on 26 April 2010.
Opening Night, April 21st
By Grace Edwards.
Fame: the musical is a fun and energetic romp full of big dreams and dashed hopes with a healthy dose of romance thrown in. If you are a fan of the film, you’ll love the musical.
Based on the movie released in 1980, Fame follows a group of high school students at New York’s esteemed High School of the Performing Arts. The musical focuses on several main characters: Carmen Diaz, a sexy Hispanic student and confident performer obsessed with fame; Schlomo Metzenbaum, the son of a famous violinist and himself a gifted flautist who is tired of the world’s expectations; Tyrone Jackson, a talented but illiterate hip hop dancer from a disadvantaged background; Iris Kelly, a graceful but socially insecure ballet dancer; Mabel Washington, an overweight dancer desperate to lose weight but who finds food irresistible; Serena Katz, a shy drama student, and Nick Piazza, a serious classical actor.
Opening with the energetic prologue Pray I make P.A, the relatively young principals make for a believable set of teenagers, fitting their characters like a glove. The remaining cast are evidently strong dancers with the ensemble dance scenes both polished and vibrant.
Perhaps one of the hardest things to get right in any musical is the casting of talent in the lead roles; in Fame, there is one crucial decision that needs to be made for each character: to cast a singer-who-dances, or a dancer-who-sings?
As singers-who-dance, American import Darlene Love (Miss Sherman) and Jazz Flowers (Mabel Washington) raise the calibre of the overall production. Love’s powerful gospel tones reach their pinnacle in the number These Are My Children, in which she palpably conveys her character’s misunderstood love for her students. Flowers gets her moment in Mabel’s Prayer, a hilarious plea to the powers above to stop her from becoming the world’s fattest dancer. At points her vocal control and athleticism threaten to bring the house down.
On the other hand, the characters of Tyrone and Iris are given to dancers-who-sing, which is an understandable choice given that both roles require far more dancing than singing. Banking on the success of So You Think You Can Dance Australia, 2009 finalist Timomatic and winner Talia Fowler make their appearances together as the famous dance leads. The results, however, are somewhat mixed.
Timomatic’s strength, the hip hop sections of the musical, provide some of the most powerful, electric dance moments of the evening. This is partly because of the ensemble dancers’ tight performances. But Timomatic is also a soloist and in one scene, he is duplicated on several large screens positioned behind him as he busts out a series of dance moves, including the moonwalk in a show-stopping moment. Indeed his larger-than-life role more than makes up for the odd moment of insecurity in his vocal performances. As the demure Iris however, Fowler suffers more obviously from the disparity between her dancing and singing skills and ultimately, the pair were lacking the necessary chemistry as the famous love-hate couple.
But at the end of the day, there is no doubt that Fame will secure fans an entertaining night out, and is guaranteed to have you humming catchy tunes for days. Cheesy, fun, dynamic and voyeuristic, it bears all the hallmarks of a classic musical. What more could anyone ask for?
Posted on 23 September 2009.
The Forum, Entertainment Quarter
Thursday August 13th
By Dolce Fisher.
Many have mourned the passing of one of the world’s greatest performers, Michael Jackson, but others have chosen to celebrate his legacy. On August 13th Sydney’s performers had their special way of saying goodbye and thank you to Jackson and did so in a very fitting way at Industry night. The evening also paid tribute to the late Ross Coleman, one of Australia’s musical theatre greats. The event was held at The Forum in Fox Studio’s Entertainment Quarter and was hosted by the very talented Matt Lee and Leah Howard.
The evening opened with a group of young Brent St students, with the boys doing their share of Jackson impersonations. SYTYCD’s Timomatic performed an original song inspired by Jackson and also gave us his rendition of Billy Jean and the moonwalk; there were many performances of the Jackson signature move throughout the night.
There were some well known names taking part in the evening. Jason Winters choreographed a lyrical piece to Dirty Diana danced by Lockhart Brownie. We enjoyed some comic relief from Chaz Cummings, who had great success in New Zealand’s Got Talent. He performed a simple slapstick comedy that never failed to get a laugh from the audience. It was very entertaining. Cameron Mitchell’s choreography to Street Walker was full of fast intriguing movement. It was a tight number.
There were many pieces that contained only one Jackson song that were then followed by a random mix of songs. These pieces didn’t seem to truly be a tribute but rather just a bunch of the choreographer’s favourite songs, lacking a theme and flow. Unfortunately this is something that is happening all too often these days. Choreographers need to get creative and relevant with their music if they are going to mix it up with their song choices.
The founder of Industry and Principal of Brent Street Studios, Jacqui Howard, choreographed a piece to You Are Not Alone. The performers stood on a huge scaffolding platform and were separated by curtains, never touching each other, but trying to. It was simple and communicated exactly what the song was about. Working Day and Night, choreographed by Ilona Fabiszewski and Luke T-Leane was a slick performance and another highlight of the evening.
Industry is a great performance platform for local Sydney-siders and celebrates home grown talent. Industry has enjoyed a successful last five years and is open to a wide variety of performers. Performances can be up to three minutes long and submissions can be made to firstname.lastname@example.org