You don’t need to study physics to know the name Albert Einstein. The name has become synonymous with the word genius. Like many of us, actor and writer, Jess Newman, first heard about Albert Einstein through pop culture on television and radio.
“Then I started to read a few biographies about him and realised there’s an incredibly fascinating story behind all that, which few people know,” said Newman, who first started working on this musical about five years ago when he was still in high school.
“That’s when it began, with a couple of songs, and since then its expanded the more I’ve learnt about Einstein and the more musical theatre I’ve encountered,” commented Newman.
Jess Newman’s love for musical theatre started with Gershwin, Rodgers and Hammerstein and Cole Porter.
“Then I discovered Sondheim, and that changed my life … just how he so specifically wrote for character and how every word and every note on the page was so specifically chosen for every moment to illuminate a character and a scene in the story. That really got me interested in writing musicals … Lyrically, I think Sondheim is just an absolute feast for any young writer to study,” Newman said.
Musically, Newman is influenced by the French impressionists such as Ravel and Debussy, More recently, Newman has also been inspired by the works of Jason Robert Brown, Adam Guettel and Lin Manuel Miranda.
During Newman’s time at the VCA, Einstein had its first reading.
“We learnt a lot from that to take it to the next level,” Newman said. “The reading really helped, because I was able to get dramaturgical feedback from a number of people and the amazing director we’ve been working with on this production – Daniel Czech.”
Einstein: Master of the Universe is pretty much all Newman’s work – the music, lyrics and book. Newman was involved in every rehearsal, but essentially gave his new creation over to the show’s director and musical director. It’s been a lengthy, ficve year process, but Jess Newman’s work has now come to life in the premiere season at Theatre Works in St Kilda.
“It’s really amazing to have such a talented cast and group of production people working on your material and bringing it to life. To see gifted actors and actresses working on them in such vivid detail is such a joy. As a writer you have these ideas in your head for years until it meets the actors. And then it becomes life.”
Einstein: Master of the Universe tells the story of Albert Einstein from different points of view, giving audiences an insight into the life and mind of one of the greatest minds who ever existed.
“That whole concept about the man behind the icon revealing the man behind the icon, behind the theory, behind the celebrity, really appealed to me as a musical and the whole relativity concept, as well as the story, is told from the point of view of each person around him in his life,” explained Newman. “So you get the relative story of Einstein from each point of view and that really appealed to me.”
Newman continued, “It’s been amazing to get inside the head of the most incredible and intelligent man who ever existed. The story really focuses on the people around him and in particular his first wife, Mileva, who was a physicist and an incredibly intelligent and strong woman in her own right.”
Following this premiere season, Newman hopes Einstein: Master of the Universe will eventually have a main stage production, whether that’s in Australia, the West End or Broadway.
Jess Newman’s passion for Albert Einstein and this new musical about his life is evident.
“I’ve been incredibly passionate about these people and this story. I think people will feel that passion when they watch the show – I hope they will!”
Einstein: Master of the Universe is playing at Theatre Works until Sunday 10th July.
30 June – 10 July, 2016
Tue – Sat 7:30pm, Sun 4pm, 1.30pm Sat 9 July
Tickets: $35 Full, $30 Con, $28 Grps 6+, $25 Student
Bookings: 03 9534 3388 or online at www.theatreworks.org.au
Venue: Theatre Works – 14 Acland Street, St Kilda
*Smoke and hazer effects and smoking on stage
**Suitable for audiences aged 10+
Einstein: Master of the Universe is supported by Creative Partnerships Australia through MATCH.