Fittingly, this love story began with A Spoonful of Sugar, as Shannon and Justin locked eyes through Chim Chim Cher-ee and made sense amongst the nonsense of Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.
Toowoomba-based performers and school teachers Shannon Gralow (26) and Justin Tamblyn (29) met on stage while in the lead roles of last year’s musical fantasy production, Mary Poppins. They received high praise for their performances as the enchanting Mary Poppins and the likeable jack-of-all-trades Bert. Their on stage chemistry soon blossomed into an off-stage romance much to the delight of their admiring fans.
“Shannon is a very talented singer, musician and dancer so she is very helpful when it comes to learning new roles,” Justin said. “And patient,” he quipped. “And I’ve discovered he has a secret obsession with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” Shannon laughs.
Shannon completed her senior schooling at Fairholme College with a music scholarship and trained in ballet under the guidance of renowned Toowoomba dance teacher Alison Vallette. She then graduated with a Bachelor of Music (violin) from the University of Southern Queensland and currently teaches voice and violin at the Toowoomba Anglican College and Preparatory School.
Justin is also a teacher having graduated from university in Brisbane. He spent four years teaching special education in Warwick before transferring to Toowoomba when he met Shannon. He now teaches at Fairview Heights State School in the Special Education Unit.
If it were not enough to have careers and interests in common, the couple also share the same birth date. “We seem to have a lot in common. We are both heavily involved in the arts and passionate about what we do. It’s nice to have someone who understands that and to share it with,” Shannon said.
“I love the social aspect of performing and being around people who love what they do. I also really enjoy the mental, physical and emotional discipline it demands — it is a chance to step out of your ordinary day and be someone else. It is still work but it is a release,” she said.
Performing on stage holds a similar magnetism for Justin who considers himself naturally shy. “I enjoy the challenge of learning the dances, the songs and the characters and escaping into the show and pushing the limits on my comfort zone,” he said.
You can catch the talented duo on stage in Toowoomba between June 9 and 12 when Shannon plays Cinderella and Justin is the Baker in the musical, Into the Woods, which puts a modern twist on the Brothers Grimm fairy tales. The Toowoomba Choral Society’s next production is the much-loved musical, Annie, being staged from September 9 to 11 at the Empire Theatre.
Words by Heather Smith | Images by Mary Quade