Well before Hugh Jackman hit the boards of Broadway and the West End, the original boy from Oz, Peter Allen co-wrote the show-stopping tune Everything Old is New Again. A quick glance at the musical theatre line up for Australia in 2014 and the old adage certainly rings true.
While there are a few notable exceptions of original works, the combination of revivals, anniversary productions, fresh-faced casts and long breaks between tours, promises a vibrant year of old faithfuls and contemporary blockbusters that will entertain more than 2 million music theatre lovers in the year ahead.
The event musical of 2013, King Kong continues its exclusive run at Melbourne’s Regent Theatre until the final curtain call on February 16, 2014. The monster of all musicals has received rave reviews for its epic scale and while there’s some question as to the songs’ contributions to the narrative, the mastery of a one tonne, six metre, animatronic puppet is reason enough to see the show. Given King Kong is more likely to hit New York before any other Australian city, visitors to Melbourne should pull out all stops to secure one of this summer’s hottest tickets.
Not to be outdone by Melbourne’s more hirsute king, Sydney’s season of Disney’s equally massive The Lion King delivers magical puppetry, epic storytelling and uplifting songs thanks to the exceptional creative team of musical theatre doyenne Julie Taymor (director) Elton John (music) and Tim Rice (lyrics). Stay tuned for a national touring schedule.
The theme of kings and revivals continues with South Pacific sweet hearts Lisa McCune and Teddy Tahu Rhodes reuniting for Rodgers and Hammerstein’s fairy-tale favourite The King and I – holder of the most Tony Award nominations for best Musical Revival (South Pacific has the most wins). The man most associated with the classic musical, Yul Brynner won both the Tony and the Oscar for his portrayal of the King of Siam. Rhodes will play the King in Brisbane (April) and Sydney (September) seasons but will step aside for international stage and screen star Jason Scott Lee (Dragon:The Bruce Lee Story) to take the lead in the Melbourne season (June).
After almost a decade long hiatus, the gang from Rydell High is currently touring the country with the number one party musical, Grease. A stellar cast includes Rob Mills as Danny opposite relative newcomer Gretel Scarlett stepping into Olivia’s shoes to play Sandy. Anthony Callea, Val Lehman, Stephen Mahy, Lucy Maunder, Todd McKenny and Bert Newton round out the ensemble cast. Grease moves from Sydney to Melbourne in the New Year.
Anniversary productions are theatre’s version of cinematic prequels, sequels and trilogies. And much like the caped crusaders of summer blockbuster films, the ageless heroes of musical theatre return in 2014 led by the perennial favourite Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Picture Show on its 40 & Fabulous anniversary tour. Doing the time warp for the third time is Craig McLachlan who will reprise the role of Frank’n’Furter alongside Kristian Lavercombe who returns as Riff Raff. Currently playing Sydney, Rocky Horror continues to Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide and Melbourne over the next 5 months.
Perhaps one of the biggest blockbusters in musical theatre, Les Miserables makes a triumphant return with the 25th anniversary production of the global phenomenon. The original production toured Australia from 1987-1991 and then again in the late 90s for the 10th Anniversary Tour. In 2014 new generations of theatre goers will join the more than 65 million people who have already seen the show. On stage, a crop of fresh talent will step up to play some of the biggest star-making roles of musical theatre. A list of Australian cast members in previous productions reads like a who’s who of musical theatre royalty and includes Philip Quast, Debra Byrne, Rob Guest, Marina Prior, David Campbell and Anthony Warhol. Tickets to Melbourne’s premiere season in June are now on sale.
That other phenomenon – Wicked – is also making a mini-comeback with a strictly limited Melbourne season in May featuring the delightful and hugely talented Lucy Durack (Legally Blonde) reprising the role of Glinda the Good.
Revivals and new productions may be the mainstay of the 2014 program, however like previous years there’s one new kid on the block who is expected to waltz, samba and polka its way into Aussie hearts. In March, Sydney will welcome the world premiere of Baz Lurhmann’s Strictly Ballroom – the stage adaptation of his hugely successful 1992 film.
Other new shows to keep an eye on include a limited tour of Falsettos and a Melbourne season in September of 2012 Tony Award winning sensation Once – an enchanting tale of a Dublin street musician, his haunting love songs and the power of music to connect us all. For the youngest musical theatre fans the cutest ticket this summer is for the national tour of Angelina Ballerina – The Mousical.
Whether it’s a new production of an old favourite or a musical remake of a film, book or stage play, the 2014 line up should have something suitable for all musical theatre lovers as well as newcomers. While it may seem that revivals and return seasons are the name of the game Peter Allen’s lyrics remind us “dreams can come true again, when everything old is new again”.