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Palmwoods Little Village Theatre has been a vibrant hub of creativity and camaraderie since its inception in 2020, but the woman behind it Marji Murray, has been bringing entertainment to Palmwoods for 40 years.

by Victoria McGuin

Born as a sub-group of the well-established Palmwoods Singers Theatrical Society, Palmwoods Little Village Theatre embodies the essence of amateur musical theatre. For over three decades, the Palmwoods Singers have delighted audiences, and Little Village Theatre (LVT) continues this tradition with gusto.

At the helm of this artistic endeavour stands musical director Marji Murray OAM, under whose expert guidance, members of LVT gather every Monday from 10am to 12 pm at the Palmwoods Girl Guide Hut. 

I had the pleasure of joining them on a recent sunny Monday morning as they finished a rehearsal for The Royal Galah Performance.

The space was bustling with movement, conversation, laughter and hastily grabbed sandwiches, with scripts and song sheets strewn across a large table.

Judy Bandidt, who is in charge of publicity for the group, apologised for the mild sense of chaos, but I loved it, the enjoyment in the room was palpable.

“Palmwoods Singers Theatrical Society is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year,” said Marji, who was the founder of this creative outlet for the community. I asked where her inspiration came from:

“I’ve loved Musical Theatre all my life,” Marji shared. “My grandfather was involved in panto in the early 1900s, he also played the violin for silent movies in the orchestra pit, and he was a composer.

“My mother was a fan of Gilbert and Sullivan, so I grew up immersed in Musical Theatre. I have been playing the piano since I was a child, and my favourite thing is accompanying for shows.”

Marji grew up in Goondiwindi before moving to Brisbane and eventually the Sunshine Coast to be near her family.

“My late husband and I moved to Palmwoods in 1976, and I became involved in various committees, such as the Rotunda Committee. That rotunda in Kolora Park used to be in the actual park, but it was moved out onto the water to make more room for the children to play. We used to perform there!

“I was in the committee that initiated the first Carols by Candlelight on the Sunshine Coast here in Palmwoods. It started at Kolora Park, but then we had to move to the cricket fields as thousands used to come.

“I was also in the committee that brought the swimming pool to Palmwoods, which I believe is a huge asset to the town.”

Despite Marji’s involvement in many committees, her first love has always been the Palmwoods Singers Theatrical Society.

“I prefer amateur theatre to professional,” she admitted. “I love to see people blossom when they come on stage, especially those who have never done it before.

“Our group is now about 15 regulars singing and acting, but years ago there wasn’t much in Palmwoods and we had a substantial amount of primary and junior kids, teens and adults. We put on four shows a year and the proceeds went to a chosen local charity or special appeal.

“We were based at Palmwoods Memorial Hall and would have about 60 people in each show, with around six costume changes each, it was intense. The shows were often packed, and I remember times when it was standing room only!”

Marji would manage to rope parents in to take part in cabarets, and she often visited local businesses to coax them in too.

“There’s hardly anyone in town who hasn’t had a family member involved at some point!” Marji laughed.

A selection of photo albums support this comment, with eye-catching images and newspaper clippings of shows over the years, plus a publicity poster (pictured) of a collaboration between creative groups in Palmwoods, Nambour, Buderim, Noosa, Caloundra and Maroochydore. 

As I finished leafing through the albums, the actors had packed up and the singers were ready for Marji’s guidance and musical fingers - it was time to say goodbye. 

“We are all so excited about The Royal Galah Performance for our 40-year celebration,” shared Marji. “It’s a whimsical production, full of wit and charm and music, and just great fun, something we really need in these current times.”

Marji is very grateful to be supported by Judy Bandidt (also an OAM for a range of community activities), and the Palmwoods Singers Theatrical Society President, Moira Duncombe, along with Secretary Ronda Vijsma, all of whom shared how much they enjoy being directed by Marji’.

“We have a great team and it’s a joy to be continually creating entertainment for our lovely wide community,” Marji said with a big smile.

The Royal Galah Performance is coming up in June, check the Little Village Theatre Facebook page for details and updates, or call Ronda on 0411 115786.


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