HIT PLAY ABOUT COMING OUT | Youngsters bare their hearts

THE musical stage show Bare was such a hit at the Depot Theatre in Marrickville it’s been picked up for a city run at the New Theatre in Newtown, opening next Thursday, January 19.

And Villawood actor-singer-dancer Ibrahim Matar, 21, is totally stoked.

He’s among the cast of about 15 who all sing solos as well as being part of the ensemble singing and dancing in the show. It’s about a bunch of high-schoolers coming to terms with how relationships work, and don’t work, finding sexual identity, discovering who you are and learning how to be true to that.

“Blown away”, “incredible”, “musically and dramatically powerful”, “remarkable sensitivity”, “exceptional performances”, “delightful surprise” and “the cast is blindingly talented” raved the reviewers.

Ibrahim Matar. Picture: Simon Bennett

Ibrahim Matar. Picture: Simon Bennett

It's a terrific break for Ibrahim, who’s been aiming at a showbusiness career ever since his music teacher at Patrician Brothers College Fairfield noted his obvious talents and prodded him.

When my parents heard I wanted to be in musical theatre the rest of my life they kinda thought it was a joke. They said you’ll end up in something else. No, this is what I want to do, I told them.

“Why don’t you look into musical theatre? said my teacher, Nicole Konkoly. And I did. And I took it seriously. I got into AIM – the Australian Institute of Music in Surry Hills – and studied there for two years straight out of high school. It was sort of like High School Musical but not that tacky.

“When my parents heard I wanted to be in musical theatre the rest of my life they kinda thought it was a joke. They said you’ll end up in something else. No, this is what I want to do, I told them.

“Are you gonna make enough money to live? they said. But they saw my passion and came on board.”

He also teaches acting, singing and dancing to youngsters to broaden his base and keep within the industry.

And his siblings – he’s the oldest of four – are full of support. “Yeah, they love the idea of their older brother being an actor! They love that I’m doing something so different.”

He plays Zach Anderson in Bare. “The show is about finding love amongst expectations, amongst teen angst, peer pressure, drugs; the title comes from the rawness of all that kind of stuff, the vulnerability of being in high school and having to deal with fear, anxiety, depression, breakups.”

Listen to Are You There? by the Sydney cast. It’s awesome.

His favourite song? “The opening number. I sing the first lines in the show. It’s One of these boys just ain’t like the others. Referring to Peter, the lead character. He’s gay but not everyone knows. And the other lead, Jason, is absolutely in the closet at the start. He’s having a thing with Peter.

“By the end everyone is OK with them being in love with each other.”

Is it easier these days to be gay and out at high school than it was for people of your parents’ generation? “Absolutely, absolutely. Being closeted and what-not can lead to suicide and depression.”

It can be harder to come out in Fairfield than Bondi or the Eastern suburbs. Here there are lots of families from the Middle East, Asia, Africa, with strong religious beliefs, and they’re not so exposed to homosexuality being an OK thing.

Why are guys still in the closet? “OK, it’s easier to come out, but there are so many factors about why people can’t. Fear, above all. Of what parents might think, extended family, friends.”

Are there still consequences of coming out? “I’m not gonna say no, but I can’t say it’s always easy either. There are a lot of gay people in the industry and I’ve heard of guys being abandoned by their family and friends.

“Culture also comes into it. Like in the Fairfield area it can be a lot harder than Bondi or the Eastern suburbs which is more artsy. Here in Fairfield it’s culturally strong, with lots of families from the Middle East, Asia, Africa, with strong religious beliefs, and they’re not so exposed to homosexuality being an OK thing.

“It’s harder to come out in the Western suburbs because of the traditional values.”

What will audiences take away from Bare? “At the end of the day it’s love – whatever religion you follow. Most religions preach peace, love, acceptance, unity. Above all, despite whatever rules and beliefs, you come back to the knowledge that love conquers all and we must love one another.”

At the end of the day it’s love – whatever religion you follow. Despite whatever rules and beliefs, you come back to the knowledge that love conquers all and we must love one another.

  • Bare opens January 19 at New Theatre, Newtown. Details, tickets here.