Iconic Australian film Starstruck to become a stage musical

Starstruck (film still)The dazzlingly-original Australian film Starstruck is to be turned into a full-fledged “all-singing, all-dancing” musical in a ground-breaking and extraordinary partnership between industry heavyweights, aspiring theatre talents and the NSW Government via its tourism and major events agency, Destination NSW.

RGM Productions – spearheaded by Australian producer Garry McQuinn (Priscilla Queen of The Desert The Musical) and his partner Rina Gill – will join forces with the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) and Destination NSW to bring director Gillian Armstrong’s iconic 1982 comedy drama to vibrant life on stage.

Set in the shadow of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the film was written by Stephen MacLean (The Boy From Oz), designed by Brian Thomson (Jesus Christ Superstar, The Rocky Horror Show and Priscilla Queen of the Desert The Musical) and featured an uplifting, catchy soundtrack, including Body and Soul by Tim Finn, the title song Starstruck by Phil Judd, and The Monkey in Me! by Dennis Nattrass.

Starstruck is an Australian fairytale, a wonderfully naive film with a ‘dare to dream’ message. It’s a neglected classic; people forget how original and influential the film was,” said McQuinn. “Jackie Mullen strutting across the Sydney Opera House’s stage with her punk hair in her neon-lit tutu, tiara and gloves, anticipated Madonna’s Like A Virgin by two years. Starstruck is the perfect title for this collaboration between the students and teachers at NIDA, and our most talented and experienced theatre makers.”

The development of Starstruck begins in September 2018 with preliminary workshops involving both undergraduate and post-graduate NIDA students. The book for the musical has been written by Mitchell Butel – one of Australia’s best-known actors and musical theatre stars.

Directed by Simon Phillips (Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Ladies in Black, Muriel’s Wedding), set designed by the Tony Award-winning Thomson, (for the 1996 Broadway production of The King and I) and choreographed by Andrew Hallsworth (Anything Goes, Sweet Charity), the uniquely home-grown Starstruck will showcase NIDA’s graduating class of 2019 when it premieres at the Parade Theatre late next year. The production aims to serve as a springboard for later commercial seasons.

“It’ll be an exciting adventure to see this warm-hearted little Australian film take shape on the stage,” says director Simon Phillips. “The story about a couple of self-invented Ozzie kids trying to save their family pub is full of joy and adolescent energy, and NIDA feels like the perfect place to road-test its charms.”

For McQuinn, shepherding the production to the stage in such a resourceful way enables a level of mentoring and cross-generation collaboration that is vital to the future life-blood of the theatre. It also further enriches his long-standing association with NIDA, first as a student, then Head of Production, Board Member and now Trustee.

NIDA’s Director/CEO Kate Cherry has embraced the partnership, supported by Mushroom Music Publishing, the Owner of Foundation Theatres, Stephen Found, Destination NSW and David Elfick of Palm Beach Pictures. “The National Institute of Dramatic Art is proud to host the initial Starstruck workshops in Sydney this year,” said Cherry.

“The development of new Australian work resonates with NIDA’s primary aim to provide an immersive creative environment that encourages industry collaboration and innovation. As we head into our 60th year, NIDA looks forward to being part of this exciting creative process. Collaboration is central to our training philosophy and our students will benefit greatly from this opportunity.”

Described by The Guardian as “a neon lightning bolt with all the makings of a classic” – Starstruck is a cinematic love letter to Sydney. It came as a startling contrast to the pioneering Gillian Armstrong’s earlier work, the internationally-acclaimed period film My Brilliant Career.

Starstruck was billed as “a modern musical comedy”. It was splashy, colourful and bold, and established a new style of Australian filmmaking. The film earned three AFI Award Nominations, including for Best Original Music Score, Best Achievement in Costume Design and Best Achievement in Production Design.

Set primarily in and around The Rocks, Starstruck centred on the loveable and quirky Jackie Mullens (played in the film by Jo Kennedy) – a teenager who works in her mother’s failing harbourside pub but dreams of becoming a rock star while her cousin Angus (played in the film by Ross O’Donovan) aspires to be her manager and get her on the national TV talent series, The Wow Show.

“The film is flamboyant, vivid and celebrates a time of innocence and excitement when it just might be possible to make dreams come true,” said Designer Brian Thomson

Starstruck is set to premiere in late 2019.For more information, visit: www.rgmproductions.co.uk for details.

Image: Jo Kennedy (centre) as Jackie Mullens with The Swingers in the film, Starstruck (supplied)