Andrew "Hondo" Hondromatidis came from a poor farming family living on the outskirts of the Australian outback where his father struggled to make ends meet with only 2 cows in his herd, both female. They were the ugliest cows this side of Alice Springs and no bull would go near them, even with the McGuyver style mud and clay make-up his sister would apply to their faces on 'date night'. No wait, that's the Live Musical version that's currently being written.
Let's start that again.
Andrew "Hondo" Hondromatidis was just your regular young boy growing up. The Cub Scouts kept him active outside of school where he could spend time exploring the lay of the land and just hang out with his friends. His sister on the other hand enjoyed dance and being the young boy that he was, if his parents were taking his sister to dance, he had to be dragged along as well. But instead of rebelling at the prospect of having to watch these classes, something inside him triggered a desire to be up on stage himself. I suppose the nature of being a larrikin around his family and friends had already been nurtured. Yes Hondo, I've seen the videos of you dressing up as your Grandmother and starring in your own cooking and cleaning show.
"Hondo" grew up in Blackburn South before moving to Watsonia in Grade 6. He then attended Viewbank College and was cast in starring roles in all his High School shows, even leading the school as College Captain in his final year. It was around Year 9 when Hondo decided the stage was going to be his home away from home. He went to study his Bachelor of Arts (Musical Theatre) in Ballarat for 3 years before coming home and obtaining an agent straight after his showcase. From then to now, Hondo has been involved in shows with the Australian Shakespeare Company and has appeared on our TV's in various commercials and appearances on ABC2's "Twenty Something" and Channel 9's "Underbelly: Squizzy".
Which leads us to HONDO IN CONCERT - ONE NIGHT ONLY!. Not many artists will get off their assets and put themselves out there. This is what separates people who succeed from people who wait for things to happen. Hondo has had this idea of doing a one night show to say thanks for his past and to promote for his future for a while, and with the help of a group of talented friends, the seed sown bore fruit on Sunday night. It was a privilege to be there for the dress rehearsal and to understand all the nuances that make up a live show, where even up to the very last minute there are still minor tweaks being made to get everything just right. But nothing prepares you for how it all comes together in front of a live, and excited audience as everything is belted out to perfection.
The night begins with the supporting act of young up and coming talent Jade Alice, beginning with a performance of two excellent electronic numbers made mostly with her own vocal loops, live, followed by two songs with her guitar that were clearly favourites amongst the sell out audience. Her comedic timing in between sets was brilliant and really got everyone in the mood for the main event. You can check out her wonderful work on SoundCloud.
As the curtains draw back, the lighting (Ben Mogford) and sound (Jessica Brown) really open up to reveal the live band Hondo had assembled. Hondo comes out on stage to begin the show to rapturous applause and we're introduced to a sweeping medley that touches on his High School musical roots as he belts out an Overture of his past stage performances that cover classics from 'Guys & Dolls', 'Little Shop of Horrors', 'Anything Goes', 'Annie' and 'Crazy For You'. It's a great warm up set broken up by a riveting solo tap dance piece that ties them all together. As always, his comedic wit comes to the fore in the next few pieces as Hondo proclaims his desire to move the UK and perform on the West End by performing two numbers that speak of that "other place"; 'On Broadway' and 'Broadway, Here I Come'. If you haven't realised by now, he does have a very dry sense of humour.
The band introduction takes on a Michael Jackson classic, 'Billie Jean', and breaks it down to it's orchestral parts, with each band member introduced just as their musical instrument adds the next layer to the song. Bruce Coombs introduces the beat on Drums, followed by Chris Rourke on Bass Guitar. Stacey-Louise 'Not pronounced Calamari' Camilleri adds a layer of Keys, then Paul Kascamanidis on his Electric Guitar and we say 'cello' to Patrick Schnur on, umm, Cello. There are strings attached when Stephenie Pulis-Cassar on the Viola and Stephanie-Jane Lewendon-Lowe, Angel Duan and Catherine Challinger on Violins 1,2 and 3 make their way into the piece. Leigh Olsson pumps out some vocal sounding notes on his trumpet right before backing vocalists Emily Jackson, Lucy Ross and Chelsea Tsaparis chime in with the now famous chorus. Brilliant.
As a favour, two Australian composers in Hedger & Nicholson gave their blessing for Hondo to perform two of their songs on the night, 'Make it Better' and 'Perfectly Imperfect', both executed perfectly perfect. To follow up these ballads, the hilariously performed 'We Are Never Getting Back Together' had the audience in stitches as Hondo sprinkled his own touch of camp throughout. Other songs of note during the evening included the jazz classic 'Feeling Good', 'Anthem' from Chess, 'How Glory Goes' from Floyd Collins and 'King of the World' from Jason Robert Brown's Songs For A New World. As with the classics, Hondo performed some more contemporary music with the likes of Daft Punk's 'Get Lucky', Maroon 5's 'Moves Like Jagger' and 'Mambo No. 5', all sounding great with the live band and orchestral twist to them.
Which brings us to a very important moment for Hondo as an artist where he was cast in Opera Australia's Production of 'South Pacific' as Stewpot. He had the privilege of working with some great local and international talent including Lisa McCune, Christine Anu, Gyton Grantley and Teddy Tahu Rhodes. As a tribute to his time travelling around Australia performing the show in Perth, Adelaide and at the Sydney Opera house, Hondo and Keyboardist for the night, Stacey-Louise Camilleri, put together a medley of classic songs from the show, culminating in a last minute request from Stacey for Hondo to re-do 'Some Enchanted Evening' in his best, and pretty much perfect, Teddy Tahu Rhodes impersonation.
As fun as the evening was, the real emotional moment came in the final number of the show titled 'Grateful'. Hondo begins by telling us about his journey to date and just how far he has come in such a short time, and with many of his family, friends and colleagues in the audience it was his chance to really let them know just how grateful he is for their support over the years and for the challenges that are to come. With a performance that he put on tonight, there is no doubt that he has a very successful future ahead of him. It was an absolute pleasure to be a part of this special day, to see how it all comes together and to see the reaction of the crowd at this wonderful talent, and if all else fails he'll still be a successful entrepreneur selling Garlic and Oregano infused Olive Oil to the masses, a hilarious running joke the live audience got to enjoy on the night.