“I wasn’t really that happy with this in London.” And with those nine simple words Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber, in front of a packed, opening night Love Never Dies crowd at Melbourne’s Regent theatre, invalidated the entire London theatrical industry in one casual statement.

This off the cuff remark had me literally speechless as we were walking out. My girlfriend actually thought I hated the show so much that I needed a few quiet moments to restrain my anger and possibly thump a couple of passing power poles. This was not so. The show was amazing but it is not my intention to review the production in this space; you can read Simon’s review here.

I was in shock. This is the West End we’re talking about. Sure, not Broadway, but clearly the next best thing. And they couldn’t save Love Never Dies but ‘we’ could. What of every single creative, performer, producer, usher, flyman, swing, milliner, and seamstress? What of their training, blood, sweat, and tears, possible mortgages, dependents, testamurs, certificates, and general livelihood? This is years of their lives that Lord Webber simply flushed away with a wave of his hand because ‘they’ couldn’t do what ‘we’ could. I’m still astounded, shaking my head as I sit here writing this.

So what does this mean for ‘us?’ A recent news article discussed NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell’s plan to produce and premiere brand new shows in Australia before they head to London or New York. And we can do it. Doctor Zhivago is already here, An Officer and a Gentlemen and King Kong are on their way, and Strictly Ballroom is set for Sydney in 2013. In the words of Max Bialystock, "We can do it!" Josh Piterman believes it and so do I. Take Hairspray. When I reviewed the show I said it was “possibly the best version of Hairspray running anywhere in the world today,” and I stand by that statement. Admittedly I wasn’t expecting anyone to push ‘live’ LED technology further than David Atkins OAM for a good few years yet GHOST has already surpassed Roadshow Live’s accomplishment not even twelve months on. But then I probably shouldn’t be surprised.

Now is the time, people. Of course there’s no such thing as a free lunch, so you’ll have to work for it, but we’re in the fledgling stages of a new era for Australian musical theatre and opportunities like these come once in a lifetime. If you’re currently in the amateur theatre scene and have wanted to push for the leap to professional performance, do it. If you’re still in high school and thinking of applying for a performing arts or musical theatre course, do it. Melbourne and Sydney are solidifying their position as powerful players on the world stage and now we have built it, they will come. The VCA’s musical theatre course is (thankfully) being reinstated next year and we can expect that alone to bring a number of global experts to our shores, not forgetting those already researching and teaching at WAAPA, Monash, UB, and other performing arts institutions around the country.

It is completely possible that, if this trend continues, international performers may start coming to us for their ‘big break’ instead of our stars heading overseas to make it big. Unfortunately, Doctor Zhivago’s producers recently announced that they have abandoned plans for an Australian cast recording. This is a real pity as our Mary Poppins recording is, in a word, magnificent; a feat that is made all the more impressive considering it was recorded live across five nights, not in the sterile confines of an audience-free studio. Hopefully we will see an Australian Love Never Dies recording as I have a bit of a man crush on Ben Lewis and reckon he could give Ramin Karimloo a good run for his money.

We are a theatrical force to be reckoned with, and the world has stood up and taken notice. While chatting to Simon Parris, our pro. musical theatre editor, at the opening night of Love Never Dies, he remarked that Melbourne has been a bit like Broadway recently, not with the quantity but certainly the variety of shows on offer, and he is completely correct. When we’re not enjoying recent transfers, or premiering news shows before London and New York, then we’re fixing the ones that they couldn’t get to work. Not since the early ‘90s have I seen such exciting activity around the country and I believe this is only the beginning.

So maybe what SPIDER-MAN really needs is a vacation to Australia. If we can do it for ALW, Bono should be a pinch.

For those of you unable to attend opening night of Love Never Dies, Webber’s full (albeit brief) speech went like this: “I hope there’s an immigration lawyer in the house, because having worked with this fantastic team I think I’d quite like to move to Australia. I honestly can say that this is one of the finest productions I’ve ever seen of my work anywhere. Simon [Phillips], Gabriela [Tylesova], you and your team, you have made a dream come true for me, because I wasn’t really that happy with this in London, and here it is, in Melbourne, exactly as I hoped it would be. Thank you very, very much.”

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