Gowns. Glamour. Growing Up. The world premiere of Ladies in Black – the stylish story of fashion, friendship and 1950s Australia takes place tonight at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre with the frock-fest signalling a stunning and triumphant return of musical theatre to Queensland Theatre Company.
Adapted from Madeleine St John’s 1993 novel, The Women in Black, this new production is brought to life by playwright Carolyn Burns (North By Northwest, High Society) and internationally-acclaimed director Simon Phillips (Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Love Never Dies) with original music from acclaimed singer songwriter, Tim Finn OBE (Split Enz, Crowded House).
“If one of the designs of drama is to give real life a sense of cohesion and meaning it generally lacks, then Ladies in Black ticks all the boxes,” says director Simon Phillips. “All in all, there’s so much wit and wisdom at the heart of this novel and, armed with both in their own particular fields, Tim Finn and Carolyn Burns have brought it bristlingly and buoyantly to life.”
“To make it into a musical seems to me the perfect way to capture its essential qualities; the inner yearnings of the characters get the most eloquent and poetic expression and the music plays a large part in convincing us that they’re all somehow dancing to the same interplanetary score.”
Ladies in Black is a modern-day fairytale set in a stylish department store – F.G. Goodes – in a city in the late 1950s on the cusp of becoming cosmopolitan. Donning a distinguished black dress, the bright-eyed, bookish school leaver Lisa is about to join the sales floor of the city’s most prestigious department store – temporarily, of course.
In that summer of innocence, a world of possibilities opens up as she befriends the colourful denizens of the women’s frocks department – there’s Patty, embroiled in her marital strife; the lovelorn and unlucky Fay; and the exotic, compelling European refugee, Magda, mysterious mistress of the model gowns, who takes Lisa under her wing.
From the Christmas rush to the chaos of the sales, these women stand shoulder to padded shoulder and together learn lessons in life, love and longing – and at the end, it’s not just the fancy frocks that are forever altered.
Ladies in Black features more than 20 original songs by Tim Finn, and a stunning range of some 30 custom-designed and created dresses and suits, representing one of the biggest wardrobe projects for QTC since 1999. There are three full stage revolves in the show, 400 lighting cues, a six piece band on stage at all times, and more than 60 costume changes.
With a dash of delicate comedy, Ladies in Black is a magical modern-day fairy-tale set in a city on the cusp of becoming cosmopolitan, and marks the triumphant return of musical theatre to Queensland Theatre Company’s stage.
Director: Simon Phillips Cast: Andrew Broadbent, Kate Cole, Carita Farrer Spencer, Bobby Fox, Kathryn McIntyre, Lucy Maunder, Sarah Morrison, Christen O’Leary, Naomi Price, Deidre Rubenstein, Greg Stone Musicians: Isaac Hayward, John Parker, Andrew Johnson, Toby Loveland, Kathryn McKee Composer: Tim Finn Playwright: Carolyn Burns Musical Director: Isaac Hayward Designer: Gabriela Tylesova Lighting Designer: David Walters Orchestrations and Musical Supervisor: Guy Simpson Choreographer: Andrew Hallsworth Sound Designer: Matthew Erskine Design Associate: Hanna Sandgren
Ladies in Black
Playhouse – QPAC, Cultural Precinct, South Bank (Brisbane)
Season: 19 November – 6 December 2015
Bookings: 13 62 46 or online at: www.qpac.com.au
Image: Carita Farrer Spencer and Christen O’Leary feature in Ladies in Black – photo by Stephen Henry