When APO Arts Academy launched its new Music Theatre course, it was perfect timing for one talented Melbourne singer and dancer.
For 20-year-old Phoebe Coupe it's been just the tonic. Last year she suffered "the biggest blow of my life so far." She was cast as Martha in High School musical but the show was canned after seven weeks.
"We weren't selling as many tickets as they'd hoped. It was a very difficult time," she said.
To take the role she'd quit her Music Theatre Course at the Victorian College of the Arts, expecting a long tour.
Then came news of a new music theatre course run by APO Arts Academy. From more than 150 applicants, she got one of the 25 available positions.
"What I love about the course is that you get thrown into the deep end. Before you know it you have learnt so much so quickly. This is not a course you glide through. We are getting pushed in a big way," she said.
In August the school held its first performance. Course Coordinator of the Music Theatre Course, WAAPA Graduate Nicholas McMahon, told Stage Whispers the first crop of students is fantastic.
"We've got conservatorium graduates, people who have done other acting work, trained dancers, people just finished high school, people who have done amateur shows, and people who have never performed but just have amazing ability," he said.
The students study music theatre history, acting, improvisation, sung voice repertoire, accent, dialect, all the dance streams, gym, stretching, performance practice, song and dance, music theory and keyboard.
The course runs for one year with 26 hours a week of tuition weeknights and weekends. It is being used by professionals to brush up their skills, or up and comers as a stepping-stone to further study.
Classes are held in the heritage-listed Emerald Hall in South Melbourne. It was once a Police training centre for horses and has been beautifully restored. The building's main function is as home to Dance World studios. Hundreds of junior dancers get lessons there, while more than 100 adult dancers get full or part time training in the sparkling facilities that also include a recording studio.
This year, under the banner of APO Arts Academy, course founder Pamela
Apostolidis added music theatre training to their stable.
Pamela says the first crop of students brought something different to the table, but collectively they have the same objective - "to be a star".
"We did accept people of all shapes and sizes - we're not going for typical size 10, 5/8 girl. It is about the talent … because there are so many character roles, the market place does have job for all of them," she said.
The next round of auditions in Australia and New Zealand are in September and October.
APO Arts Academy is looking to expand the one-year certificate course in future years to become a two-year Diploma.
And APO also wants to add drama to their institution.
"At this stage we will be offering short courses in drama, but eventually we will be offering accredited courses in drama or in acting," she said.
For details about all course and auditions call 03 9696 0138 or email

Photo: Tom, Dick or Harry - Phoebe Coupe with Lyndon Keenan, Simon Whitford &
Thomas Birch. Photo: George Papapetros, courtesy of APO Arts Academy