MaestroAs a teenager in post-WW2 Darwin, Paul Crabbe begins to take piano lessons from the enigmatic Eduard Keller, an Austrian émigré with a shadowy past.

For Keller, escaping his ghosts in the isolation of the Top End, music has always been his way of dealing with the horrors of the world. For Paul, learning the piano starts as an inconvenience but soon becomes an obsession, his ticket out of a town full of drifters and misfits.

Peter Goldsworthy’s acclaimed coming-of-age novel has been adapted by the author and his concert-pianist daughter into a wise and funny play about love, betrayal, loyalty, guilt and the pursuit of artistic excellence. For director Rosane McNamara, the opportunity to work on the stage adaptation of one of her favourite novels was too tempting to refuse.

“I’ve loved the book ever since I first read it,” says McNamara. “Peter Goldsworthy’s language is so evocative of time and place and his characters are so rich. The play pulls all those elements together beautifully into a theatrical form and the fact that Anna Goldsworthy is an acclaimed concert pianist in her own right, brings an added depth to the script.”

McNamara has directed many times at New Theatre, most recently the acclaimed productions of Noel Coward’s Hay Fever and Joe Orton’s Entertaining Mr Sloane.

“Maestro has quite significant performance requirements, which makes it both challenging and exciting to work on,” she says. “The majority of the cast have to be skilled musicians as well as actors, with the ability to play classical piano, or keyboards, drums and guitar in a rock band, or sing Schubert lieder.”

Taking the central role of Paul Crabbe is Caleb Alloway – a highly accomplished pianist, so this production provides a great opportunity for him to showcase both his acting and musical skills. Caleb was last seen at New Theatre in Jonathan Harvey’s Canary, and more recently in The Paris Letter for Darlinghurst Theatre Company and The History Boys for Sydney Theatre Company. He has also been seen in the ABC’s Janet King and the Nine Network’s Underbelly: Razor.

Making her New Theatre debut, recent WAPPA graduate Nicole Shostak plays ‘Rosie’, the girl who becomes Paul’s obsession, as much as music. Nicole is a regular cast member in both seasons of the hit Seven Network TV series A Place To Call Home.

Paul’s band-mates are young actor/musicians Alex Lewis and Isaac Reefman, who between them play drums, keyboards, strings and guitar. Paul’s parents and Rosie’s mother are played by Jamie Knight, Annette Rowlison and Debra Bryan, with Frank McNamara as the eponymous Maestro, Eduard Keller.

Considered one of Australia’s finest authors, Peter Goldsworthy has won major literary awards across a range of genres: poetry, short story, novels, theatre, and opera libretti. His novels have sold over 400,000 copies in Australia alone, and have been translated into many European and Asian languages.

In 2003, his first novel Maestro was voted by members of the Australian Society of Authors one of the Top 40 Australian books of all time.  He wrote the libretti for the Richard Mills operas Summer of the Seventeenth Doll and Batavia, the latter winning Mills and Goldsworthy the 2002 Helpmann Award for Best New Australian Work, and a Green Room Award for Special Creative Achievement.

Maestro, Three Dog Night, Wish, Honk If You Are Jesus, and the short story The Kiss have been adapted for the stage. Honk won the 2006 Ruby Award for Best New Work. The short film of The Kiss, adapted and directed by Ashlee Page, won both the 2010 Dendy and AFI awards for best short feature, and an AFI award for Best Cinematography. It also won the Australian Teachers of Media Award for best short film.

Director: Rosane McNamara  Cast: Caleb Alloway, Debra Bryan, Alex Lewis, Jaymie Knight, Frank McNamara, Isaac Reefman, Annette Rowlison, Nicole Shostak  Assistant Director: Michelle Sewell  Set Designer: David Marshall-Martin  Lighting Designer: Tony Youlden  Costume Designer: Sarah Chelkowski

New Theatre, 542 King Street, Newtown
Season: cancelled

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Image: courtesy of New Theatre