The Queensland Choir at Twelfth Night Theatre – A Tribute to Marjorie Johnstone 

September 25, 2019

On Sunday, 15 September, I went with my friend Sue to the Twelfth Night Theatre. The Queensland Choir, under the baton of Kevin Power and founded in 1872, ably performed excerpts from classical composers like Mozart, Bach, Brahms, Strauss, Rossini, Vivaldi and Verdi during the first Act. In the second Act songs from popular musicals like Cats, Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita, Starlight Express and Phantom of the Opera roused the full house out of their seats. 

This event was staged as a fitting tribute to Marjorie Johnstone, who ran The Johnstone Gallery with her husband Brian between 1952 and 1972. They exhibited the works of great artists like Margaret Olley, Grace Cossington Smith, Sidney Nolan, Charles Blackman, Arthur Boyd, Ray Crooke, Lawrence Daws and many more.


Photographer unknown

Brian and Marjorie Johnstone with Lindy, c.1960
RBHARC 7/1/4 13143, p.38, The Johnstone Gallery Archive,
Australian Library of Art, State Library of Queensland

The Johnstone’s involvement with theatre resulted in the building of the present day Twelfth Night Theatre complex. When its doors opened in 1971 the Theatre Club hit the news with its ’12 to 12 licence’ under which, for the first time, women were – can you believe it? – able to order and pay for a drink ‘and still feel feminine’ (The Johnstone Gallery Archive: Scrapbook 1970: RBHARC 7/1/13, p.148). This trailblazing act was taken up by the current theatre owner, Gail Wiltshire, who in 1977 faced the enormous challenge of restoring a theatre that had fallen into disrepair. Apart from their passion of loving the theatre, Gail and Marjorie became great friends. In a moving theatrical tribute Gail, with panache, allowed the audience to share her deep affection for Marjorie.

Shikara Ringdahl gave a spine tingling performance of Don’t cry for me Argentina. Standing on the backstage staircase enhanced the dramatic effect. Greg Moore and Jason Barry-Smith sang with their usual polished professionalism. The audience loved it and seemed to leave on a higher note!

Sue enjoyed this Phantom of the Opera presentation more than one she had attended a little while ago. What a wonderful way to spend a Sunday afternoon.


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