Melbourne’s own professional music theatre company, The Production Company, is set to power into 2016 with a season that has two popular revivals and a mysterious musical whodunit. As usual, the Prod Co has managed to attract some of the best music theatre talent Australia has to offer, so the outlook is bright.
Kicking off the season on July 23 is a revival of Jule Styne’s musical Funny Girl. More mature Classic Melbourne readers may remember the 1966 Australian production, which starred Jill Perryman and Evie Hayes. This time around the Prod Co has nabbed the queen of music theatre, Caroline O’Connor (pictured), as comedienne Fanny Brice – the role should be a perfect fit for someone of O’Connor’s exuberance and charisma. Much loved veteran Nancye Hayes will tread the boards as Fanny’s mother, and in a surprise casting, the attractive bad boy Nick Arnstein, will be played by the opera singer with the matinee idol looks, tenor David Hobson. An eclectic trio that should be worth watching. If you know nothing about Funny Girl, you will be familiar with its hit songs Don’t Rain On My Parade and People (who need people…etc…etc…). Funny Girl will have 10 performances from 23 to 31 July at the State Theatre.
The musical whodunit Curtains is the surprise inclusion for me, but with music and lyrics by Kander and Ebb of Cabaret fame, it has a decent pedigree. Set in 1959, its plot centres on an untalented leading lady who is murdered onstage. (One wonders if the musical director “dunnit”, if she was really atrocious!) Passionate theatre loving gumshoe Frank Cioffi comes in to investigate, and the fun begins. In the lead role of Cioffi is Simon Gleeson, who recently starred in Les Miserables, and who was such a hit in the Prod Co’s production of Chess a couple of years ago. In a role tailor made for her, that of the brassy Broadway producer Carmen, Melissa Langton should be a showstopper. The attractive trio of Lucy Maunder, Alinta Chidzey and Alex Rathgeber complete the lead roles, giving us all plenty of eye candy and they also happen to be fine music theatre singers. Curtains runs from August 20 to 28 for 10 performances in the State Theatre.
The final 2016 offering is a revival of the Australian musical Dusty, based on the life of Dusty Springfield. Written by John-Michael Howson, David Mitchell and Melvyn Morrow, it has plenty of hit tunes and a good story, so it should be a crowd pleaser. Starring as Dusty is the newest music theatre star on the block, Amy Lehpamer, who is currently treading the boards as Maria in The Sound of Music. Rodney, her camp, loyal hairdresser, is one of my personal favourite Australian music theatre stars, Todd McKenney, who quipped that this was probably the only gay music theatre role he hadn’t played! Dusty will have 17 performances at the Playhouse from November 12 to 27, meaning it overlaps for a week with that other little show taking place in the State Theatre, Wagner’s Ring Cycle.
The creatives are the strong team we have come to expect – names like Gale Edwards, Anthony Gabriele, Roger Hodgman, John Foreman, Jason Langley and Michael Tyack take the directorial and conducting roles.
All in all, it’s an interesting season with different shows that large commercial managements are unlikely to bring us.
As always, music theatre matriarch Jeanne Pratt has striven to keep the shows affordable – you can grab a single C reserve ticket for only $48 for evening performances, (less if you take a subscription) and if you want to introduce your youngsters to music theatre, tickets for them are just $24, and Jeanne will again give you the gift of a lovely souvenir program. It’s so refreshing to see one company that is trying to encourage families to go to the theatre so we have a new generation of music theatre lovers for the future.