Matthew Lee Robinson.
If the name is not yet familiar to the average theatre goer, you can expect it will be in the not too distant future. Already highly regarded within the entertainment industry, Australian composer/lyricist Matthew Lee Robinson won the UTAS Stephen Schwartz Songwriting Award, the Pratt Prize for Music Theatre, the Gilbert Spottiswood Churchill Fellowship, the $100,000 Australia Council Music Fellowship and was nominated for a Helpmann Award for Best New Australian Work. It’s an impressive list of achievements (a quick glance at his Wikipedia profile will confirm this ) – and he’s only really beginning.
Robinson grew up in Rockhampton, trained in Perth at WAAPA, received significant early support for his first works, including Metro Street, in Adelaide and developed further work in Sydney with Sing On Through Tomorrow. Robinson then moved to Melbourne where he has a large support base and family (including newly married husband, Scott Morris.) However, these days, New York is now technically Robinson’s home base.
Melbourne audiences have already had the privilege of seeing Robinson’s most recent musicals in concert presentation: both Atlantis and Happy People were performed at Chapel Off Chapel, with Atlantis winning the Theatre People Pro Choice Award for Best Concert Presentation of a Musical.
Next week, Flourish Productions presents the Melbourne premiere of another of Robinson’s acclaimed works: Sing On Through Tomorrow.
Sing On Through Tomorrow is a one act song cycle that first came about when producer Neil Gooding told Robinson to create a place, a home, for his work.
“I loved that idea,” said Robinson, explaining that he then realised the songs he had written spanned a period of more than ten years.
With the support of Gooding, Robinson developed Sing On Through Tomorrow.
“The majority of the songs in Sing On Through Tomorrow are the very rare ones that people might have sung in a cabaret here and there. There’s one from Metro Street and there’s one from Happy People. Together, Neil and I created a conceptual backdrop in which these songs could live. The great thing is that future productions could choose that backdrop or not.”
Sing On Through Tomorrow first premiered in Sydney in 2011, featuring Robinson and Hollie Andrew, Kate Maree Hoolihan and Shaun Rennie.
“In my mind, for that first production, it was a time when I was looking back to work out how to move forward. That’s the best way to describe it. I’d just finished my time in my string of Opera Australia roles and I was looking at what I wanted from my life,” explained Robinson.
Sing On Through Tomorrow became a show about four people at a crisis point in their lives. It was a show that mirrored what Robinson was experiencing in his own life.
“With Peter Rutherford and Neil Gooding, we managed to find that mirror in what was happening in my life at that time, whilst creating a vehicle for these fantastic songs, some of which would have been lost along the way if it hadn’t been for this show.”
Now Melbourne can experience the extraordinary music of Matthew Lee Robinson in Sing On Through Tomorrow.
Robinson has no involvement with this production. He’s not in the rehearsal room.
“It’s all up to Stephen Wheat, the director, now!”
I asked Robinson what it felt like, as a composer, to hand over your work to another creative to actually stage.
He replied, “It’s an honour.”
Robinson admits it’s also been one of the big lessons in his life.
“I’m quite fastidious, in the way I approach both my art and my life. It is actually quite lovely to let go of those fastidious reins, so to speak, and let others find themselves in that work,” Robinson explained.
“There were times early on, that I’d think, ‘Oh, that’s different’, or ‘That’s not how I imagined it’, but in actual fact that’s what’s interesting.” said Robinson, “ … you know what you planned to intend, but musical theatre, like most art forms, you have to let go of those reins in order to make it fly.”
It’s something Robinson has become more acutely aware of in recent years.
“It’s actually my job and responsibility to let people breathe their own life into it.”
Robinson regards Sing On Through Tomorrow as a show for “people who want to feel something and walk away knowing that everything’s okay.”
“It’s for people who want to experience life as it is. Who want to see themselves reflected back to them and for people who want to have hope in what’s coming. People are going to laugh and they’re going to cry and they’re going to end up feeling they have hope in what’s coming next,” commented Robinson.
It’s a show that will appeal to all ages and anyone who loves great music.
“It speaks to today’s audiences. It’s you and me. It’s us just walking down the street, but heightened and put to melodies that make you want to sing them.”
Sing On Through Tomorrow will feature Eddie Grey, Genevieve Kingsford, Joe Kosky and Alana Tranter. It is directed by Stephen Wheat with musical direction by Lucy O’Brien. Robinson will be there on opening night and, like the rest of the audience, is looking forward to seeing how his work is interpreted.
Sing On Through Tomorrow opens on Tuesday night at Chapel Off Chapel as part of the Melbourne Cabaret Festival.
Sing On Through Tomorrow
Chapel off Chapel
12 Little Chapel Street, Prahran
Tuesday 21st June 6:30 pm
Wednesday 22nd June 6:30 pm
Thursday 23rd June 6:30 pm
Friday 24th June 6:30 pm
Tickets: $37 Full, $33 Concession, Group of 6+
Run time: Approx 65 minutes, no interval
Sing On Through Tomorrow is also available on itunes http://matthewleerobinson.com/sing-on-through-tomorrow