Melbourne’s music theatre industry is booming at the moment, with the recently announced East End Theatre district. Melbourne is making its mark in the world of music theatre.
The East End comprises Melbourne’s four heritage theatres: the Regent, Her Majesty’s, the Comedy and the Princess. These four buildings have been an established part of the city since their construction, with the Princess being the oldest built in the 1850s. With all four of these buildings having housed shows at the time the district was officially named, it has been shown that music theatre is being swallowed up and digested just as well as the fine coffee the city has to offer. Which begs the question – is Melbourne (and consequently the rest of Australia), ready to experience a more edgy, risk taking music theatre scene?
Global Creatures recently took a large risk in staging its production of King Kong. This new Australian musical spanned a five-year production from concept to final realisation, opening to mixed reviews. The show was an outstanding technical achievement (winning a Helpmann specifically awarded to excellence in this category) and truly showed off what us Australians are capable of producing. With crowds around the country and world flocking to get a glimpse at the one tonne, six metre tall Kong puppet, it is clear that Australians are ready to embrace a new age of theatre, and that they are committed to supporting shows that are unique and one of a kind.
With this in mind, and the naming of the East End, will Melbourne hopefully begin to attract new producers that are more willing to stage less mainstream shows? Tony Award winning musicals such as 2011's The Book of Mormon, 2008's In The Heights and 2006's Spring Awakening have yet to receive any professional Australian tour. Written by the creator’s of South Park, Book of Mormon rose to critical acclaim for its satire telling about two Mormon Missionaries being sent to Uganda. After years in development, the show would go on to win nine Tony Awards. Spring Awakening also spent years in production, starting off-Broadway and undergoing several re-writes before its debut in 2006. The show would go on to win 8 Tony Awards, and kick start the career of Glee’s Lea Michele. Based on a controversial play of the same name, the show tells the story of teenagers discovering their sexuality and covers many themes one would expect to see in such a show (homosexuality, rape, abortion, and other heavy matters). Despite both these shows having such edgy and confronting content, both have had huge critical acclaim and successes.
Melbourne is already known for its creation of new theatre, and pushing the boundaries of its stage plays. Content that may have been deemed shocking fifteen years ago is no longer so, and as a result it could be time to allow such music theatre shows into the country to tour at a professional level. Melbourne is ready to rival the likes of Broadway and the West End when it comes to its content in music theatre, and with the establishment of the East End, hopefully new producers will be attracted to stage these works in an East End theatre.
If you agree with Joshua, which shows would you one day love to see filling the East End theatre's?