A new musical by Drew Lane hits Gasworks Theatre next month – and the anticipation is electric…Electric Dreams, in fact! Lane’s homage to the early 80’s – the decade of big hair, big shoulders, big tech, drive-ins and sci-fi – is a heartfelt dedication to a time of innocence and young love. Inspired by Rusty Lemorande’s 1984 film of the same name, Lane resurrects the basic concept of the original science fiction romantic comedy – the love triangle between a man, woman and PC.
For Lane, Electric Dreams: The Musical is a reminder of a time when we were more innocent, a little naive, and on the verge of self-discovery. “But that time – 1984 – was also when I was 9, and I think when we look back at our childhood, there is this fuzzy glow to it,” he says. ” The world is such a tough and confronting place at the moment, and I always feel like theatre is a chance to escape for a little while.”
Lane proudly asserts that the original movie had become his muse for the project. “When Electric Dreams was released back in 1984, it totally enraptured me, combining two of my favourite things – music and technology,” he says of the film famous for its music by Giorgio Moroder and Jeff Lynne. ” Throw in a dash of romance and MTV and it was a perfect mix.” Lane’s passion for the project prompted him to get in touch with Rusty Lemorande, who very kindly allowed Lane to adapt his original screenplay into a musical. “He’s been so supportive of the adaptation and I cannot thank him enough for trusting me with his movie.”
A project mammoth in size and time, it has taken Lane about eight years, nine drafts, ten cut songs, and lots of development to get to production stage. He explains the original draft was written in about 18 months, but from the feedback of the round-table reading, much has changed. Additional storylines have been added, characters have been expanded, and of course there’s 22 brand new songs! “Having the show put on stage by Music Theatre Melbourne, and under the keen direction of Roman Berry, is extremely exciting,” says Lane. “It’s like a proud parent showing off their child for the first time. Of course there’s a little apprehension, but in the end, theatre is a collaborative process and I’m thrilled to see everything come together.”
Lane is still enthusiastically hands- on as he is the rehearsal pianist and also MD for the show. So even though the “writer” Lane is stepping back a little, he still gets to be at every rehearsal and see it evolve in front of his eyes. “MTM have been very inclusive of me in the whole process,” he acknowledges, “but I’m also aware that the vision of the creative team may differ to mine. And that’s totally cool! So, I’m more than happy to let them take the reins and go with it.”
As a writer, Lane is interested in the “small” stories – the ones that are intimate and unique. His view is that every single one of us have them and that they are vital to who we are as individuals, and make up our personal identity. “I think that we often get swept up in looking for the big stories, but often, the personal ones are the ones we connect to the most,” he says. ” Even in “Electric Dreams”, the story of Miles is one that resonates with many people: a feeling of disconnection, a sense of being left behind, the struggle to make a difference, and the hope to share our journey with another.” Most of Lane’s musicals are about a personal journey, whether that be of someone who works at a cafe, or someone about to get married, or a child trying to fight for the home she loves. “Our stories connect and unite us, and ultimately make us human.”
Lane has had a long term relationship with music – learning piano from the age of 4, and then teaching himself guitar and drums – and is quick to share a story of its therapeutic magic.
” My mum would tell of a story where I would cry all the time as a baby, but one day she put a record on to drown out my crying, but I completely stopped and listened to the music. Once the record stopped, I started crying again! Music soothed my soul, I guess! Music has always been a part of my life, since I can remember.”
For Lane, writing came about a little later – as part of his teenage years. He started with writing pop songs, but from the moment he was introduced to musicals, he knew that’s what he wanted to write. “My first musical “Backstreets” was staged at my high school, and then the local theatre company staged my second called “Utopia 2516”. Everything grew from there,” he says.
When it comes to greatest inspirations, Lane acknowledges that that is a tough one. “Musically it would be Billy Joel, 80’s hard rock, and Michael W Smith. In terms of musical theatre, I’m a huge fan of JRB, Pasek and Paul, Steven Schwartz, and Lin-Manuel Miranda. However, I do have to tip my hat to Lloyd-Webber and also Dave Clark, as they were the first musical writers I heard.”
Like any form of creative writing, the song writing process can be complicated and multi-layered for some or as easy as writing some lyrics on the back of a used napkin for others. Lane shares his process below:
“Writing a song takes on different ways – depending on each show. Most of the time it’s lyrics first – shaping the story and making sure the characters are saying and doing what I need them to do to propel the story forward. Then I write the music. And more often than not, it’s an intuitive process. It doesn’t always work like that, but it’s pretty close. I actually talk a lot about my process in a podcast I have called “From Inspiration To Stage”. Check it out on iTunes (there’s my plug!)
As I said before, life inspires. It’s just a matter of opening our eyes and ears to the little things around us. But also being in my studio at home inspires me. I have a great workspace that allows me the creative freedom to go with the ideas that pop into my head. Having that space – and that outlet – is so important to me. I generally work very fast, and my creative space allows me to do that.
However, above all, I have a few key people that I share my earliest creations with, who tell me their thoughts and responses. Having those people in my life is like manna from Heaven – I trust them and their opinions. I might not always like it, but they’re pretty much always right!”
The ‘life inspires’ motto serves Lane well. What is next for Lane – well, whatever the world throws at him, of course! ” I’ve got ideas for three new musicals bouncing around in my head: a new junior musical, a new youth musical, and a new adult musical set in the 1920’s,” he says. “But I’m also exploring film scoring, and also releasing music designed for children and schools to use. I don’t sit still much because there’s always something to write about and write for!”
Electric dreams The Musical is a story that takes you back to the wild innocence of 1984, with a brilliantly catchy score that features 22 original songs. The stellar cast is headed by Tom Green as Miles (Miss Saigon; Gladys Moncrieff Award; The Project) who finds a brave new world of love and technology, and Madeleine Featherby (Paris: A Rock Odyssey; Follies; LaTraviata), as Madeleine, girl next door and cellist extraordinaire.
It also features Stephen Mahy (Miss Saigon; Jersey Boys; Mamma Mia; Crossroads!) as Miles’ Casanovan best pal, and Angela Scundi (Rocky Horror Show; Thoroughly Modern Millie; Tick Tick Boom), as Madeleine’s, the thoroughly modern Millie. Owen James plays Edgar, the computer with human aspirations. Sophie Loughran, Zak Brown, Anthony Scundi, Courtney Smyth and Aidan Nairros.
Lane’s adage is simple: If you’re a fan of the 80’s, you will love this. If you’re a fan of the film, you don’t want to miss out. If you’re a fan of new musical theatre, come along to see it, and keep supporting new Australian works. There are great composers right here in Australia and we need to support them to find their way to the stage. What we do here in Australia is damn good, and the more we support our own composers and writers, the more we show their value and worth.
Go! Just go!
November 20-24 for six shows. Get your tickets from the Gasworks Website: http://www.gasworks.org.au/event/electric-dreams/