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From the bench to stage for Magistrate

Magistrate Kay Ryan (third left) appearing in Toowoomba Choral Society's production of Les Misérables.

Toowoomba Magistrate Kay Ryan will switch a charge sheet for a song sheet next week when she takes the stage at the Empire Theatre.

Magistrate Ryan will sing as part of the ensemble for the Toowoomba Choral Society’s production of Les Misérables, which begins on Thursday.

Performing in the world-famous French musical, which premiered in Paris in 1980, will be a thrill for the judicial officer, who grew up singing in school and church choirs, but considered a stage performance to be a “pipe dream”.

“This iconic musical attracted record numbers to auditions, and I was very excited to be chosen to appear in the ensemble,” she said.

Les Misérables follows the life of Jean Valjean, an ex-convict who seeks redemption despite being hunted for decades by his rival and ex-guard Javert.

“I sing first soprano and will appear variously as a nun, amongst the poor, a beggar, an onlooker, at the barricade and at the wedding.”

Magistrate Ryan was inspired to join the society in 2020 after it had presented one of her favourite musicals, My Fair Lady, the year before.

“At that time, I was still sitting as a full-time magistrate in Toowoomba and joined the choir to sing, more as a stress-relief mechanism,” she said.

“Whatever the stress of the day in court, a good sing with other like-minded people always lifted my spirits.”

After COVID-19 dashed any hopes of a show in 2020, Magistrate Ryan auditioned for Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, and in 2021 finally made her first stage appearance in a musical, as part of the ensemble.

“It was a fantastic show to be a part of,” she said.

Magistrate Ryan was appointed to the Toowoomba court in 2008 after more than a decade of practice in areas including mental health, personal injury law, workers compensation, and motor vehicle and public liability.

In March last year, she retired from sitting full-time on the bench and is relishing the chance to spend more time singing.

Producer Jo Tooley said Les Misérables held “a special place in the hearts of many in the Toowoomba choral community”.

Ms Tooley said there were 57 crew, 24 orchestra, and 12 crew members helping to run the show on a “mission-critical level”.

“Beyond that we have an army of over 40 volunteers helping to manage, build, sew, publicise, design, and paint to get the show ready for production week,” she said.

Ms Tooley said the production was a fitting way to mark the society’s 90th birthday year.

“We are thrilled to have so many Youth Production alum in this show – our Valjean, Javert, Cosette, Eponine, Marius, and Enjolras, to name a few, all honed their craft as passionate and enthusiastic children in Toowoomba Choral Youth productions,” she said.

“Our director, musical director, and costume designer have all worked on previous TCS productions of Les Misérables, so this piece, and the creative team, were selected to honour this very special anniversary production.

“We know audiences will enjoy seeing this show again, after a 14-year hiatus, and hope it will be a wonderful piece of nostalgia for many in the community.”

The Toowoomba Choral Society’s production of Les Misérables will run at Toowoomba’s Empire Theatre from 7 to 9 September. Tickets: https://empiretheatre.com.au/whats-on/les-miserables

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