25 August 2023

It's finally Southern Stars time for 3000 students and their dedicated teachers

| Jen White
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Thousands of students rehearsing for Southern Stars.

Thousands of students fill the floor of the WIN Entertainment Centre in their final rehearsal for Southern Stars. Photos: Jen White.

The costumes are ready and rehearsals are over – now it’s time for 3000 students to shine in the Southern Stars Arena Spectacular.

The result of months of planning and rehearsals will be on show at the WIN Entertainment Centre today and tomorrow (25 and 26 August) and audiences will be blown away by the scale and talent on display.

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Performers represent 120 schools from the Illawarra, Shoalhaven, South Coast, Wollondilly, Goulburn, Macarthur, Southern Sydney and Young.

Three hundred of them form the choir, supported by a 60-piece orchestra and 80-member marching band. There are 2000 dancers, a circus troupe and an Aboriginal dance group.

Behind the scenes, 250 teachers and support staff provide the choreography, direction and order in what sometimes looks like organised chaos.

Amy Copeland with rehearsals in the background.

Amy Copeland has been a performer, tutor and manager with Southern Stars and her connection continues as WEC event operations coordinator.

Amy Copeland knows just how those performers will be feeling before the first of their three performances. She’ll be watching from the wings in her capacity as the WEC event operation coordinator and continuing her 21-year connection with the show, which started in 2002 as a foyer entertainer in year 9.

She moved on to the choir, dancing, became a featured artist and in year 12 played the Irish drum. Her connection to the show continued after she left school, doing percussion tutoring and a few years as tunnel assistant manager.

“I just wish Southern Stars had been around earlier when I was at school,” she said.

Photo of Amy and Peter Copeland from the 2002 Southern Stars show.

Amy and Peter together in the 2002 Southern Stars show. Photo: Amy Copeland.

“It creates such an amazing opportunity for kids to come out of their shell and get in front of an audience for the first time, but also to really nurture those kids with some incredible talent and give them a platform to get out in front of an audience and use their talent.

“Without something like this, you wouldn’t ever know how talented they are. This means so much to the public education system, and for children in the Illawarra and the greater NSW region to get on stage and do what they love doing.”

Amy also has a family connection with the show – her brother Peter was a fellow performer and is now musical director.

Amy and Peter now run So Popera Productions, a not-for-profit company that aims to bridge the gap between community theatre and professional theatre in the Illawarra. Their big show for 2024 will be Annie.

Here’s a sneak peak of what you can expect from Southern Stars, taken at the final day of rehearsals.

Southern Stars takes place at the WIN Entertainment Centre at 7 pm on Friday 25 August and 1 pm and 7 pm on Saturday 26 August. Tickets are still available to purchase on the website.

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