Melbourne’s iconic Athenaeum Theatre has hosted one of the most ambitious events ever staged by the Old Paradians’ Association – a glorious celebration of the past 21 years of Parade College Musicals, Encore21.

Four hundred and forty-seven people filed into the Athenaeum to experience a musical tour de force involving students past and present of both Parade and its sister colleges CLC Eltham, Mercy College Coburg, Our Lady of Mercy College Heidelberg and Santa Maria College Northcote – all of whom paid nostalgic homage to the Parade musicals in which they were previously involved.

Appropriately enough, more than 21 musical numbers were featured from a myriad of productions dating back to Oliver, the first production staged by Parade under Principal Dr. Denis Moore’s watch in 1996. Luke Bortignon (2017) and Joe Spanti (2012) opened the night with Live in Living Colour from Catch Me if you Can, with Master of Ceremonies John Abrahams (1982) following with Oh, What a Beautiful Morning from Oklahoma!. Former CLC girls Gabrielle Hatty and Christine Sosnowski, who performed the duet Where is Love back in '96, did so again after 21 years.

The evening ended with a frenetic performance of You Can’t Stop the Beat from Hairspray, and a rousing rendition of One Day More from Les Miserables as the encore.

Rob Clark, a final year student of 2008 and a member of the male ensemble, echoed the sentiments of everyone involved in Encore21 when he posted on facebook “That was truly something special. Huge thanks to everyone who built this thing from the ground up way back in October of last year right through to the night, and a huge thanks to all of you for being the coolest, funniest and most awesome people to share a stage with . . . seeyas at Encore42!”.

Sasha Hennequin, a former student of Our Lady’s, wrote: “If someone had told me when I was performing Mary Magdalene in my high school production of Jesus Christ superstar that I would be reprising my role on the Athenaeum Theatre stage 16 years later, I would have laughed and told them their time machine is stuffed! I would like to thank each and every single person involved in Encore21. We put on one hell of a show – a huge thankyou for asking me to be part of it. I was especially grateful to have had the opportunity to reunite and thank the production team of these musicals I did in high school which kick-started my love for musical theatre and helped me uncover a new dream to follow”.

Eleven male soloists, 12 female soloists, together with eleven male and eleven female ensemble members sang their hearts out to the wonderful backing of the Ross Chapman Orchestra throughout the two and a half-hour musical extravaganza.

Parade College Principal Dr Denis Moore was presented with a gift as a token of appreciation from current and former students who benefited from the performing arts faculty he established almost a quarter of a century ago. Martin Macaulay, the College’s long-serving Director of Music, was also recognised with an Honorary Old Paradian Award – the eighth recipient since the award’s inception in the Association’s Centenary year of 2014.

Old Paradians’ Association President Lewis Derrico, who joined his wife Ana at The Athenaeum, said of Encore21 afterwards: “If I think back to Saturday night I would firstly say that I was proud to be a Paradian”.

“To the musicians, the cast members, the crew and of course the production team who somehow brought this incredible show to life in an incredibly short turnaround time I say thankyou, together with all the sponsors of Encore21 on this famous night for the Old Paradians,” Lewis said.

“I was also pleased to see so many sectors of the Parade community represented in the same room in a spirt of bonhomie. The legacy of Encore21 is that it paves the way for future events up to and beyond Parade College’s 150-year celebrations just three years from now.”

The Old Paradians’ Association wishes to place on record its sincere gratitude to everyone involved with Encore21. It particularly acknowledges the following members of the production team, who dedicated their seismic talents and energies to Encore21:

Executive Producer John Abrahams; Producer Brad Cocks (1998); Production Manager Mark Spencer (2001); Director Tyson Legg (2000); Assistant Director Stephen Valeri (2007); Musical Director Ross Chapman (2006); Assistant Musical Director Danial Heskett (1998); Choreographer Michelle Clark; Technical Director and Stage Manager Ash Whelan (2004); Audio Josh Mattielli (2012); Cameras and Vision Steve Howard (1998); Promotion and Marketing Luke Bortignon; Committee Members Michael Butera (2002); and Reardon Jones (2003); Graphic Design Julia Mancuso; Archivist Rodney Prusa (1981); and Mirella Busso-Lee and Megan Sanelli.