25-year-old director, Simon Eales, had never heard of Normie Rowe. And, let’s face it, this 25-year-old writer wasn’t too familiar with him either! But play “Shakin’ All Over”, and all of a sudden everyone knows who he is.
Normie – the Musical is a brand new Australian show written by Graeme Johnstone. OSMaD are happy to present the life of “Australia’s First King of Pop”, Normie Rowe. A truckie’s son from Northcote, the show follows his rise to fame and the mystery surrounding his involvement in the Vietnam War. The story includes some of Normie’s hits, a number of 60's classics, and a few original songs to tie it all together.
With his “winning smile and amazing voice,” Eales describes Normie as the Justin Bieber from the 60's. However, the director reveals that the performance has some interesting twists and turns. He briefly mentions Rowe’s rise to fame but focuses on his experience in the war. He says, “Australia had a very unpopular war to deal with and basically had to find out a way to make it more popular for everyone. Seeing as everyone loved Normie Rowe, they thought that he could perhaps get involved. There’s a little bit of mystery surrounding it.”
A Scotch College alumnus, Eales has been working on Normie for four years. Since its original performance two years ago for one night only and with a cast that had only two weeks of rehearsal under its belt, the show has come a very long way. Deciding to approach OSMaD because of their facilities, Eales labels the partnership as “a match made in heaven!”
Writer Graeme Johnstone and Peter Sullivan, who wrote the original songs for show, approached Normie’s manager John Blanchfield with his script. It was through Blanchfield that Eales became involved with the project. “They had this idea that Normie had a great story but there’s been no movie or musical or anything written about so they put it together,” says the director.
Eales reels off a list of characters and other notable people that get a mention in the performance including Reg Presley from “The Troggs”, Spencer Davis, Johnny Young, Ed Nimmervoll, Roy Orbison, and Jimmy Page. He states that the show takes us “through the sixties with Normie as our vehicle.”
And what better way to tell your own story, than to star in it? Paul Keating wasn’t in Keating!, Shane Warne was nowhere to be seen in Shane Warne: The Musical, and Barrassi was more than happy to take a back seat in the recent representation of his life in Barassi – The Stage Show.
For 65-year-old Normie Rowe, it’s an entirely different story. Very much wanting to take part in Normie, Rowe is playing Prime Minister Harold Holt. But don’t worry, he’ll be singing a few numbers too! “Graeme had always wanted him to play Harold Holt. He wrote Harold Holt for Normie. Normie liked the idea as he has played Harold Holt before in the ABC mini-series, The Prime Minister is Missing,” says Eales.
Surely directing the man himself would be a little intimidating, but Eales describes Normie as a man with “so much energy, it’s ridiculous. He’ll come into rehearsals and he’ll just work for hours and he’s always offering. He just won’t stop offering up things; things to consider, advice, little helpful hints to do with his character…He’s great, he still has an amazing voice…. You just watch him for five minutes, he’s a real professional, he’s been doing it for a while.”
With a 25-year-old director and a 65 year-old-writer, Normie promises to entertain audiences of all ages. With the intention to “bridge the two generations”, Normie aims to provide audiences with a show that can be enjoyed by everyone.
“We’ve focused on making it a show in its own right with a brilliant story, great characters and great production values. We want people to walk in there and for it not to matter about whether they know who Normie Rowe is,” says Eales.
OSMaD’s Normie – the Musical is on at the Geoffrey McComas Theatre, Scotch College Hawthorn from 23 November – 1 December 2012.
Tickets available from: http://www.osmad.com.au/
(03) 9514 2091
Photography: Lachie Bell