Stars, fans farewell Jon English

It would have felt wrong to farewell Jon English in any other way than on a stage, in front of an audience and with humour alongside tougher emotions.
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Few would disagree either that the Capitol Theatre was the perfect place to do it. This stage has held rock concerts, musicals, comedy and drama – the creative buffet that made up this public life.

In the same room, albeit a significantly renovated version, where he first playedJudas Iscariot inJesus Christ Superstarmore than 40 years ago, friends, family and fans mixed.

Everyone was given the sheet music for one of his best known songs,Six Ribbonsand time to practise in their heads. This was not an occasion to hold back or hold it in.

John Paul Young, who was inSuperstar, and Simon Gallaher, who a decade or so later would appear alongside English inThe Pirates Of Penzance, committed to singing for him.

Trevor White, Jesus to English’s Judas spoke of meeting English at the cattle call forSuperstar.

John Paul Young was among a number of stars who paid tribute to Jon English at the Capitol Theatre. English’s career took off at the venue 1970’s hit Jesus Christ Superstar. Photo: James Alcock

“This enthusiastic, gushing with excitement guy” who would become his friend over thousands of performances.

“Every night would be different,”White said. “It was an incredible thing to be part of. So many great times and laughs.”

In the room, were figures from the music publishing industry, musical theatre representatives such as impresario Peter Cousens, actors and singers such as John Waters, who sangTurn The Page, and enough well-lived rock faces,such as Peter Cupples,to fill a beer barn on a classic pub rock night sometime in the late 1970s.

Most were mouthing the words as footage played of English singing his dark-hued hitHollywood Seven. “Hollywood Seven dreams to rent ’til your name goes up in lights”. Everyone was held fixed by even older TV film of English singing Judas’ powerhouse numberHeaven On Their Minds.

Later would come the women who played opposite him, from Marcia Hines and Julie Anthony to Amanda Muggleton and Marina Prior. All of them enamoured of his graciousness and care as much as his talent and performance.

The spotlight has dimmed a final time for singer-actor Jon English.

As Anthony said, “he was everybody’s friend”. His former manager Peter Rix spoke fondly of the “glory days” he and English “ran amok” through the industry in the manner of English’s beloved footy team, the Parramatta Eels, on an end of year trip. Except, of course,that the footy team had a week of it while English and friends went at it for months at a time.

But Rix also ran through the vast array of talents of a man who was a star in every area he worked, from pubs to TV to fame in Scandinavia.

“He found a way to connect with you,” Rix said.

“With Jon you always knew he was going to go just that little bit further.”

And for his final full house, so did his friends and family.

Simon Gallaher, left, performs at the memorial for Jon English at the Capitol Theatre. Photo: James Alcock

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