“Victoriana!” is Australia’s longest running theatrical production and one of its most enduring and endearing.
Run under the auspices of St Paul’s College Union, it has underpinned the operations of the Union for more than half a century, provided untold amusement for two generations of Paulines and become a tangible link to the College for Old Paulines who delight in returning for Victoriana! and bringing friends for this remarkable evening of formal dining and entertainment.
Originally brought to Australia from England in 1956 by Pamela Trethowan, Victoriana! found a permanent home at St Paul’s College at the instigation of prominent Pauline The Hon Lloyd Waddy, AM, QC, RFD in 1964, and has played to a succession of packed houses ever since.
Based on the English Music Hall tradition, the show draws on music and comedy of the Victorian era. The entire show is performed on a tiny stage in the College Hall, after a usually excellent three course dinner before an audience in formal attire, but always ready to sing boisterously whenever the opportunity arises.
Under the masterful baton of the Master of Ceremonies, the audience is invited to join in the choruses of many of the numbers …..and does so with gusto: Daddy Wouldn’t Buy me a Bow Wow, I Do Like to be Beside the Seaside, There Was I Waiting at the Church and Nobody Loves a Fairy When She’s Forty (to name but a few).
For 36 years the show was hosted by Lloyd Waddy who built up a reputation for himself as a cult figure and for the show as a “must see” across those sections of Sydney society fortunate enough to receive an invitation. From 1999 to 2015 the MC was Christopher North, who ensured the show’s continuity and in turn established himself in the hearts of a new generation of Paulines. On one night in 1974 due to Lloyd Waddy’s indisposition, the show was MC’d by prominent Pauline journalist and writer David Marr, and in 2016 Simon Ward brought his own special charm to the role. In 2017 the MC was James Bell, a veteran of 28 seasons and a long-standing producer and artistic director of the show.
Over the years Victoriana! has featured some wonderfully talented artists including several who have gone on play principal roles for Opera Australia and others who have become house-hold names in the entertainment industry. Perhaps the foremost amongst them has been Peter Cousens, who played leading roles in many of the recent grand musicals, including The Phantom of the Opera (including the rôle of the Phantom in London), Les Misérables, Miss Saigon, West Side Story and Aspects of Love and starred as Nanki Poo in The Mikado for the Australian Opera (as it then was). Peter both produced and appeared in many seasons of Victoriana! and has made occasional guest appearances in recent years.
In 2018 Peter Cousens returns, this time as MC for the 55th season.
Traditionally the evening ends at mid-night with the audience standing on their chairs waving sparklers and singing “Land of Hope and Glory”, followed by “grand illuminations” (in the modern era called fireworks) in the splendour of the Blacket Quadrangle….after which the choruses can be heard tinkling off into the darkness as the guests make their way home…in the knowledge that a whole year will pass before they can do it all again.