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Star from “Down Under” rises
on Canyon Moon stage

by Ben Gorman

What can the man who’s done everything do for an encore?

Australian Gerard Maguire, a man who has certainly done quite a lot during his career in the performing arts, will begin to answer that question this month when he takes the stage in Canyon Moon Theatre Company’s (CMTC) production of Side By Side By Sondheim in its new theatre at the Old Marketplace in West Sedona.

Maguire brings to bear for CMTC the benefit of an extensive career, principally in his native Australia, but also spanning the globe. He received his bachelor of arts from Australia’s National Institute of Dramatic Art, which boasts such distinguished alumni as Mel Gibson, Judi Davis and Kate Blanchett. The Institute is perhaps the most exclusive in the world. When he attended, Gerard says there were 3,000 applicants but only 15 students actually graduated from the program.

“Acting’s been very good to me. It’s taken me all over the world,” said Maguire. Back in Australia, he acted in the long-running Aussie TV series, “Prisoner Cellblock H,” which has enjoyed a good deal of international success. He has also appeared in productions internationally, including workshops in Los Angeles with Jon Voight, a film in Japan and a five-month run of an Australian production of David Williamson’s play, Sons of Cain, that ran in London’s West End in 1986.

“Voice has been the mainstay of my career,” Maguire said. He is one of the leading voice artists in Australia, averaging three commercials or narrations per day. He continues his voice work from Sedona via the Internet. He has taken many and varied voice-over jobs over the years, from announcing the diving events at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney (a very busy two weeks that involved, among other things, learning the pronunciation of all the foreign athletes’ names), to giving voice to cartoon character Titanium Man for the cartoon TV series “Iron Man.” The Russian character spoke “frequently and longingly of mother Russia,” he said, slipping easily into a Russian accent. Maguire’s vocal talents certainly benefit CMTC, as he plays the role of the narrator in Side By Side By Sondheim, which runs through April 7th.

But Maguire’s talents and interests don’t stop at the lip of a stage or the door of a sound booth. He has been working for many years as a writer and producer for both film and television. Since 1988, Maguire has concentrated mostly on his writing, producing and voice work. In Australia, he developed three television series and wrote three screenplays, including Gross Misconduct,  starring Jimmy Smits and this year’s Best Actress Academy Award nominee Naomi Watts.

It was through his writing that he met his film producer wife, American Jane Alsobrook. In the mid-80s, while Maguire was producing a film adaptation of a novel, he decided the screenwriter on the project wasn’t cutting the mustard so Maguire wrote the screenplay himself. Though as yet unproduced, the work caught the interest of Columbia Pictures. Maguire flew to California to discuss the project where he met Alsobrook, who was then a senior VP at Columbia. Eventually their relationship developed and Maguire  moved to Los Angeles for a number of years. When Alsobrook was offered a job as president of Australia’s largest independent film production and distribution company, he persuaded her to take it and they moved to Australia in 1995.

In the spirit of fair play and marital compromise, and respecting a desire on Alsobrook’s part to be closer to her family after September 11, they decided on a move back to the U.S., arriving last December. Los Angeles was an option - both had lived and worked there - but though they maintain a house there, the couple decided on Sedona, long-time home to Jane’s parents, hence familiar ground.

“I wanted environmental conditions similar to what we had in Australia,” he said. Alsobrook continues her involvement in film as a producer and consultant and is working with Maguire on a film project due to go into production by the end of the year. In fact, he’s been so busy that, until recently, he hasn’t been able to clear the blocks of time needed for theatre work. But he has never forgotten his roots as an actor: “It’s my first love, my greatest love. It’s a real thrill be working in the theatre again,” he said.

Serendipity seems to occur more often in Sedona than the rest of the world. Recently, he happened to stroll through the Old Marketplace plaza, saw the signs for Canyon Moon Theatre, and stopped to chat with Mary Guaraldi, the founder and producing artist director. Their mutual interests spawned both a friendship and a working relationship. Of CMTC he said, “I’m really excited by it. You have a very sophisticated audience here with high expectations. It’s up to us to meet those expectations. If the community can get behind Mary, she’s just the person to do it.” And his goal is exactly in line with Guaraldi’s when he says, “What we’re aiming for is a professional standard of theatre.”

What does Maguire like about life in America? Service with a smile is one thing that comes to mind. Customer service is a whole different ball game in the States, he reports. As an example, he said, “I love shopping at Bashas’. They make you feel good about spending your money there.” Doubtless, Gerard Maguire is one more reason we can feel good about spending our money with Canyon Moon Theatre.

Side By Side By Sondheim is a journey through the genius of America’s foremost musical theatre treasure, Stephen Sondheim. Featuring songs from Gypsy, West Side Story, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and A Little Night Music, Side By Side promises something delightful for everyone.

The production boasts a cast of very talented singer-actors, including Carl Bara, accompanist Rebecca Cauthen, Nathaniel Hackmann, Antoinette Tucker and Lynne Wieneke. Side By Side plays Wednesdays through Saturdays at 7:30 pm, and Sundays at 2 pm, through April 7.

All performances are held at the new Canyon Moon Theatre in the Old Marketplace, West Hwy. 89A in Sedona. General admission tickets: $17 adults, $12 Wednesday performances, $10 full-time students. Call for reservations: (928) 282-6212.

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