A ban on musical theatre? Musical Theatre gangs? A law against straight men acting gay? What has Frankston come to!?!
Luckily this is an original work of fiction I Heart Frankston the Musical, expertly created by Gerard Lane and directed by Bryce Ives, featuring the talented Gerard Lane, Adrian Portell and Laura Burzacott.
I spoke with Gerard and Bryce hoping to get a clearer insight into what it’s like to create an original work.
The storyline is quite quirky!! What was your inspiration?
”I have had many different inspirations for this project” answered Gerard. “It began with boredom….and through this my daydreams found their way to paper. The actual storyline is inspired by the 1961 film version of West Side Story, just instead of New York, I thought Frankston – my home town – was the logical next place it could be set. If we look at West Side as a piece of non-fiction, as in there are actually gangs of juvenile delinquents that are trained in jazz-ballet and stage fighting, how would Frankston cope with this highly choreographed conflict happening on our streets? We have seen in recent times, the way councils deal with such things is to ban them. This is the chief premise of I Heart Frankston”.
Has it been fun to interpret such quirkiness?
"It’s hardly been a tough rehearsal process; we are having way too much fun!” furthered Bryce. “Burza, Gerard and Adrian are three great mates and this reflects in their work in the rehearsal room. The process has been full of laughter!”
When you first read the script Bryce, what was your reaction?
"Gerard is a beautiful and joyous human being, both on and off stage. The script is testament to his incredible energy and oozes his unique style of comedy. There is an honesty behind the comedy which is Gerard Lane….he has a brilliant mind for comedy and as I was reading the script I could only see possibilities”.
I note that it originated as a ten minute piece and after winning an award was then extended to an hour. Was it difficult to elaborate on a show that was essentially already complete in its own sense?
”I would have to say the hardest part was fitting everything into 10 minutes” explained Gerard. “Frankston is a suburb that sings. There is so much room for play, so many characters, situations, and so many songs. Bogan Rock is a genre all to itself, with an extensive backlog to choose from. The difficulty in transition from ten minutes to an hour was again, fitting in and jam packing the show with funny songs and having a theatrical structure that arcs a journey for the three main characters. The journey part was most difficult having not even considered it in the Short + Sweet version”.
And does the extension of the show allow for more character development?
"The extension allows for Gerard to create a fully realised story-arc and structure. It’s also allowed him to bring a range of female characters into the mix, in collaboration with Laura Burzacott” replied Bryce.
Are there other projects currently in the pipelines?
“At the moment I’m looking forward to further developing and expanding this script into a 2 Act show, as well as introduce more characters and flesh out the existing ones,” said Gerard. “Some original music would be nice, but its not one of my natural talents. Adrian Portell is an amazing musician and Frankston alumni, so I hope to collaborate further with him in the future. Together we are the Oxymorons – The straight music theatre guys from Frankston who like football and jazz ballet.”
When you were writing the script, did you have specific actors in mind?
”Most definitely," said Gerard. "Adrian Portell has entertained this idea for about 3 to 4 years, so I have enjoyed writing for Adrian and writing to his absolute strengths as well as throwing him in the deep end- his air guitar must be seen to be believed. Laura Burzacott is our not so secret weapon! When I was asked to develop the show for the Comedy Festival, I rang Laura and asked her to be involved. Incredibly funny, awesome voice and dance energy and I needed someone to bring to life several different types of Bogans. Laura is from Ballarat (The Frankston of the North… sorry Ballarat, I love you!), which I found qualified her perfectly for I Heart Frankston”.
I imagine that being the creator and one of the stars of the show is rather intense! Have you enjoyed the process?
”It is intense, but having a Director (Bryce) for the show helps beyond belief. I’ve seen some shows in the festival already and it can be obvious if they haven’t had an outside eye or a good sh** detector. The only problem with being writer and actor is that if what I am doing is not funny, it’s either my acting or my writing, so I get blamed a lot. It’s all part of the process of trying to produce the best and funniest show we can, so I get over it pretty quick, although I do get insanely nervous!”
And Bryce, is it nerve wracking Directing an original script, or is there less pressure because there aren’t expectations based on previous performances?
"Frankly working on an original script is incredibly nerve wracking; as Director you often have to make crucial dramaturgical calls in conjunction with the writer. In this instance, the writer is also on stage. If something doesn’t work in the script, it sits solely on our shoulders. If a joke isn’t written well or a song hasn’t been conceptually considered in the overall journey of the show; it’s our problem. But that’s also an opportunity. I think we are relishing in building this beast and we are very honest with ourselves: the room is full of perfectionists: our cast, our Technical Director Damien Calvert, our Producer Margaret Fisk. We want to build a show which engages and entertains; and we won’t stop developing the material. So the pressure is quite high, but only because we have great expectations of what we want to achieve!"
It is enjoyable having the writer, Gerard Lane, as a cast member? Do you collaborate on how he wants the script delivered and performed, or has he stepped back and left you with his ‘baby’?
"I love Gerard’s work both as an actor and as a writer. I couldn’t stage this show without him being on stage! Musical Theatre is a collaborative art form and Gerard is naturally collaborative as a performer and creator”.
Gerard, it must be difficult to hand your ‘baby’ over to a director. Has Bryce brought the piece to life in the way you had imagined?
”In Bryce I trust. I’ve worked with him before in the History Boys last year and we had a great time. With I Heart Frankston it has been even more fun, and we have both had the freedom to create, imagine and play”.
Who will enjoy the show and why should they see it?
”Frankston people will love it, its not very derogatory and the local references will tickle their local bone… and the general public will love it because Frankston is universal and is a fun show with great energy weird characters” answered Gerard. Bryce added “I honestly think musical theatre people will love this. The play is layered with jokes and references from Sondheim, Bernstein, Rogers and Hammerstein. You name it, it’s in the show“.
Further background on “I Heart Frankston the Musical” can be found at http://www.theage.com.au/entertainment/musicals/how-franga-became-the-city-of-love-for-one-of-its-own-20100402-rju1.html
If you want to see an original work, have a great laugh, support local talent and perhaps be inspired to create your own show, then quickly make your booking and head to the Butterfly Club as the show is selling fast!
Thur 8, Fri 9, Sat 10, Thur 15, Fri 16, Sat 17 April – 8pm
Sun 11 and18 April – 6pm
And due to audience demand, four additional shows:
Fri 23, Sat 24, Fri 30 April and Sat 1 May – 10.30pm
Butterfly Club, 204 Bank Street, South Melbourne.
Full $25 Concession $20 Groups (8 or more) $20
Venue Bookings 03 9690 2000