Louis Nowra's impressive body of work makes him one of Australia's best known and most performed playwrights. He now adds the musical The Tuxedo and the Little Black Dress (co-written by Stewart D’Arrietta) to his collection.
As well as a playwright, Nowra is an author, screenwriter, librettist, novelists, has completed two memoirs, has written for radio as well as appearing most years on VCE literature or Drama Studies Curriculums. His most significant works are perhaps Cosi and Summer of the Aliens but works such as The Golden Age and Radiance do not lag far behind.
Partnered with Stewart D’Arrietta – who Nowra has collaborated with before – the latest offering to the stage is (as it is affectionately known) The Tuxedo. The partnership between the two proved fortuitous for Nowra on this occasion as D’Arrietta's prompt to work on a project together to fulfil a theatre booking lead to the development of the work. "We talked about the concept and it came naturally and quickly," Nowra explains. "We both knew the Blue Mountains and the beautiful old hotels up there. We also knew we wanted a small show based around a man and a woman who are totally dissimilar from each other. And the music had to have an edge to it. We didn’t want ‘Broadway’ type music but something more R&B and Motown. I’ve always wanted to write a musical so that was a great pleasure."
The story follows a man and a woman who are suddenly trapped together after an earthquake hits the ballroom of a grand Edwardian hotel. Jack Clayton and Anouk Bannister are two strangers forced into each other’s company as they await rescue. The play is described as a musical about love and betrayal, romance and the resilience of the human spirit. Rebecca Mendoza plays Anouk and co-creator Stewart D’Arrietta plays Jack.
Currently playing at Chapel Off Chapel, The Tuxedo is earning rave reviews but carving out an existence, particularly when the product is a musical, can never be guaranteed. "Musicals are expensive so we had to make sure that it was financially feasible to put on," says Nowra. "We also tried to make the songs expressions of character and to be able to push the story along."
Nowra's relationship to the actors and director within the rehearsal space is clearly defined: "I attend the first few days of rehearsal and then go away and leave the directors and actors alone to explore the work," he says. "I then return for the last few days. The reason is quite simple. Because I haven’t been part of the full process I can look at the work more objectively than can the cast and director because they’re so caught up in the process that its much harder to them to be detached."
He is as pragmatic when it comes to defining the inspirational moments that may define his work and states simply that Inspiration finds him. " But the crucial thing is that you have to be open to inspiration finding you," he concludes.
The Tuxedo and the Little black Dress plays till October 14 at Chapel Off Chapel