With the backing of Global Creatures, Baz Luhrmann’s new and improved Strictly Ballroom opened in Melbourne to positive reviews and enjoyed a long season at Her Majesty’s Theatre before transferring to Brisbane for a final season. Hopefully a production on the West End will follow. Grease returned for an encore season in Melbourne before the students from Rydell High finally graduated and school was dismissed.
Once continued to impress Melbourne audiences, taking out the Green Room Award for Best Musical, but the announcement was made the show would be unable to tour due to the lack of suitable theatres interstate. After much anticip …………….ation, Sydney finally experienced Craig McLachlan as Frank’n’Furter in The Rocky Horror Show. Fresh from Once, as the violin-playing Reza, Amy Lehpamer took on the girl-next-door character of Janet, playing opposite Stephen Mahy as nice-guy Brad (who had just played the bad boy Kenickie in Grease). The show then returned for a final Melbourne season.
Wicked continued its magic before finally closing “for good” and Jemma Rix could degreenify. There was much excitement when Jemma Rix was announced in the cast of Jekyll and Hyde, along with Lucy Maunder and Teddy Tahu-Rhodes. The excitement soon turned to disappointment when it was announced the production was being “postponed” (apparently due to budget errors). Who knows how long audiences will have to wait for this musical to finally be produced commercially in Australia? Les Miserables wowed audiences in Perth, Sydney and Brisbane through all of 2015 and took out the Helpmann Award for Best Musical.
The Lion King enjoyed a long season in Melbourne before transferring to Perth, allowing the western state to experience the family favourite musical for the first time. Anything Goes proved a good tap dancing routine is still just as crowd pleasing as ever, with a spectacular closing act one number by award winning choreographer Andrew Hallsworth.
Dirty Dancing toured the country, with Kirby Burgess, Kurt Phelan and Mark Vincent having the time of their lives. It wasn’t the only commercial musical to feature a recording artist in their debut musical. A new look production with a hip-hopping and rapping Rum Tum Tugger, Cats returned to Australia with pop star Deltra Goodrem in the role of Grizabella.
Matilda the Musical opened in Sydney to critical acclaim and managed to not only live up to all the hype about this eagerly anticipated musical, but somehow managed to exceed it. A Melbourne season is now on sale. The Sound of Music also opened in Sydney, with Amy Lehpamer in the lead role as Maria and Cameron Daddo as Captain Von Trapp, proving “classics” are called that for a very good reason. Critics and audiences alike are loving this latest production.
The year closed with the world premiere of the new Australian musical Georgy Girl – The Seekers Musical at Melbourne’s Her Majesty’s Theatre which is already proving to be a hit with audiences.
The Production Company delivered three high quality musicals: West Side Story, Nice Work If You Can Get It and Jerry’s Girls.
Independent professional theatre companies provided a wide range of shows to choose from, including some Australian premieres.
StageArt’s production of In The Heights at Chapel Off Chapel, was so well received by audiences a return season was announced for March 2016. They also delivered an Australian premiere production of Dreamgirls and a world premiere of the hilarious A Very Brady Cabaret.
Other musical productions at Chapel Off Chapel included Vic Theatre Company’s Lovin’ Repeating, as part of Midsumma Festival, Trifle Theatre Company’s Avenue Q, as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, and Pursued By Bear’s John & Jen.
There was plenty of Sondheim, with Victoria Opera staging Sweeney Todd at the Arts Centre, Watch This delivering Company at FortyFive Downstairs and Sondheim On Sondheim presented by Manilla Street Productions at the Melbourne Recital Centre.
Now in its second year, the Hayes Theatre continued to cement its reputation for high quality, small scale productions with Next To Normal, Dogfight, Blood Brothers, Heathers, High Society (another musical starring Amy Lehpamer), RENT and Violet. Due to a sold out season, RENT will return for an encore season in 2016.
Melbourne theatre lovers were able to experience the musical that started the Hayes phenomenon, with a highly anticipated season of Sweet Charity at the Playhouse. After a successful Sydney season at the Hayes, Enda Markey brought his production of Blood Brothers to Melbourne’s Alex Theatre.
Heathers The Musical sold out its Sydney season and a Brisbane and Melbourne season are both on sale for 2016. Blue Saint Productions chose the Australian premiere of Violet as their first musical and critics were raving. A Melbourne season has now been announced for 2016.
LifeLike Productions gave us the highly anticipated Australian professional premiere of City of Angels at the Playhouse, proving that independent companies can deliver high quality, short season productions in a decent sized theatre. A new theatre was opened in Melbourne – The Alex Theatre, St Kilda – with a world premiere of Sexercise The Musical. Grey’s Lobotomy was another world premiere musical to have a season at The Alex. However, perhaps the most noteworthy of the independent world premieres took place at Bendigo’s brand new Ulumbarra Theatre with Ned – A New Australian Musical, composed by Adam Lyon and written by Anna Lyon and Marc McIntyre.
After success in New York and a full scale commercial production in Norway that included a working cafe and revolving stage, Amity Dry did an extensive tour of her musical Mother, Wife and the Complicated Life and had audiences around the country laughing and crying. Perth’s Black Swan Theatre Company staged Next To Normal, starring Rachel Beck.
Adelaide had its biggest cabaret festival yet, with other states also hosting cabaret seasons as either a preparation for Adelaide or to provide another venue for some of the top international performers to tour.
Flourish Productions found a niche market with three song cycles for the year: Songs of Ahrens and Flaherty, Songs of Alan Menken and Cy By Cy By Cy: The Songs of Cy Coleman.
Nick Hedger and Ben Nicholson’s Home Grown remained an opportunity for Australian composers to showcase their new works. Todd McKenney made a special appearance for the 1st birthday celebrations.
Sydney hosted the Rob Guest Endowment Concert with superb performances from all six finalists, with Daniel Assetta coming out the winner and Rob McDougall the runner up.
Twisted Broadway provided an opportunity for a range of performers to showcase their versatility whilst raising funds for Oz Showbiz Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. The event moved into the much larger State Theatre with the support of The Production Company during their season of Nice Work If You Can Get It.
The cast of Les Miserables performed in Beyond Miserables as a fundraiser for Beyond Blue.
A range of entertainment industry performers took to Her Majesty’s Theatre for a night of fundraising, entertainment, education and awareness in the inaugural event, Out From Under.
It was indeed a busy year in musical theatre in Australia, with a mix of crowd-pleasing favourites, Australian premieres and home grown world premieres – all on large and small scales. It was a year with something for everyone.