AENEAS, The Musical is a brand new Australian musical written by Melbourne theatre composer Madeleine Nicole Hale. It’s fair to say this show is generating a lot of excitement. Tickets for the staged reading of Act 1 at the Melbourne Recital Centre on Friday 16th November sold out within days of going on sale with many of the cast members friends and family unable to secure a ticket.
The show tells the story of Aeneas who is called upon by the gods to lead his people across the sea in search of a new home as the city of Troy is falling. At the hands of the vengeful goddess Juno, the Trojans are shipwrecked in Carthage where they are welcomed by the beautiful Queen Dido. Aeneas falls in love but must ultimately choose between following his heart and following his destiny.
It’s a tragedy with the universal themes of love, passion, war and revenge. Over the last 6 months, Madeleine has assembled a diverse cast and creative team, fostering a collaborative environment to bring this musical to life.
Zoy Frangos, who is currently in between the Sydney and Melbourne seasons of Evita, plays Aeneas, the Trojan hero. Madeleine approached him after seeing him as Judas in The Production Company’s Jesus Christ Superstar. “I read the concept and it sounded amazing,” said Zoy. “I loved Greek mythology growing up, being half Greek, but I was not familiar with this story”.
“It’s a very modern take on a classic story with incredible songs and soaring melodies. These epic stories reflect life; they have dark moments and there are moments of light, but they are important to tell because they not only entertain but educate audiences. I also believe it’s important to support new Australian works.”
The show is directed by Lauren McKenna with James Mustafa as Musical Director. Lauren’s credits include Heathers (Original Australian Cast) and Hairspray Arena Spectacular. “I am passionate about telling stories whether it be through acting onstage or directing behind the scenes of a production. I’m interested in the interpretations of the incredible cast Madeleine has assembled and I’m so excited to shape what they bring to the table.”
James is primarily a Jazz and classical musician, composer and conductor who has toured and played to audiences around the world. He was immediately impressed by Madeleine’s vision and passion for this original project. “I don’t often do these kinds of projects, but the quality of the script, the story and the music is impressive. It’s original and oozing with possibility.”
In writing the show, Madeline was inspired by the grandeur of French musicals such as Les Misérables and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Recognising this James said, ‘My vision is to bring a contemporary operatic and contemporary classical feel to the show, but there’s a Sondheim influence in there too. It will sound lush, very rich and full”.
While the show is about Aeneas, a classical hero, there are powerful female characters that the audience will meet.
Akina Edmonds, from Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, plays Dido, the founder and first queen of Carthage. “Dido is a strong charismatic character yet when she falls in love, you still see her vulnerability. When Madeleine approached me about being in the show, I immediately said yes. The music is amazing. She has a strong vision, I could see her sense of bravery and I love that in her and I support her doing something like this.
Although this is a staged reading, the audience will get a taste of an epic story. “There is grandeur but there is also comedy, almost like Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors” says Akina.
Olivia Charalambous who recently played Harry Potter in Puffs is excited to take on the role of Juno, the goddess for love and marriage. “I usually play quirky, funny characters, but in this show I get to play a high status Queen and I sing an incredible number where all the men bow down to me, it’s very powerful.”
Elisa Colla plays Aeneas’ mother, Venus, the goddess of love, beauty, fertility and victory. “Having Italian heritage, it’s wonderful to get to play a goddess. The music in the show is different yet beautiful. Venus’ songs are ethereal and heavenly. In other parts it has a melancholic sound, almost haunting.”
Elisa, who is also engaged to Zoy, worked with him in Les Misérables. “One night Zoy went on as Valjean, and I played his daughter Cosette. This time, I get to play his mother!”
Within this diverse group there are established professional relationships and the opportunity to create some new ones.
“This reading is an artistic venture,” Zoy explains. “As actors, we want to work on new things and work with other creatives. We all bring something outside the box. Olivia is a beautiful singer, Elisa is soprano and Akina has a very soulful voice, and so it’s exciting to have those energies in the room.”
“I like when people come from different backgrounds to work on something because that’s when you really make magic”
Tickets for the performance have sold out. However, if anyone wants to know more information about the future of the project, please check out Madeline’s website.