Never Create An Australian Musical

Noel Anderson Audrey Hepburn and I Consider Our AssetsIt’s late October 2015 and you’re standing in the Melba Spiegeltent in Collingwood, time is running out, you’re trying to focus lights, there is less than an hour before the tent staff go into overtime, everything that could go wrong has gone horribly wrong, but you remain strong and soldier on.

You’ve done the impossible, produced a new Australian musical with a five piece band in little over three week’s rehearsal, then added a choir. The only joy so far in the journey that you can think of, is you have been blessed with a terrific team of performers who are true believers in the power of music and ‘PINK.’

You’re tired of people who don’t listen, sick of pleasing everyone but you, you wonder why you wanted to do this in the first place, produce a new musical work, surely you’ve got other things you could be doing, people you could be seeing, places you need to be. There’s been a million knock backs along the way, a million thoughts running through ‘the windmills of your mind’ but they all lead to one overwhelming conclusion ‘NEVER EVER CREATE AN AUSTRALIAN MUSICAL’

Fast forward to February 2017 and you are standing in the Royal Melbourne Hotel at a writer’s meetup chatting to a new kid on the block about producing a new musical work in Melbourne. You want to be enthusiastic, every new Aussie work deserves a fighting chance doesn’t it you think to yourself… but, your experience in producing Audrey Hepburn and I Consider Our Assets over a year ago still stings and you find yourself saying things that go against your fighting Aussie spirit. Still you can’t help yourself…

“Don’t do it! It’s like going to bootcamp for ten years. No one cares. Not even musicians. And forget the art institutions. They will be the last people to buy a bloody ticket. No matter how good your show, no matter how talented the team, it won’t get the music lovers in, or the musical theatre goers either.

They want to see Cats or want to tap dance in Gypsy. They don’t want original Australian stories, they want musicals set in New York in the 1920’s not Melbourne, shows that are known, not from Oz. I even had crew members rabbit on about another show, Les Miz I think, at Audrey’s production meeting, excuse me, I still can’t frigging believe it.

Nine years I’d spent on Audrey, I guess nine years just ain’t good enough, eh? Then I discover we can’t blackout the tent during the day, do you know how much light spills into a Spiegeltent of the day, a bloody lot. I had booked tech rehearsals mainly during the day, dumb me of course…and couldn’t change the contracted hours. You try and focus lights in the sunshine? But I did it, crew told me we couldn’t but we did. It’s soul destroying.

If you’re not Sunset Boulevard or Funny Girl, people just don’t care, reviewers don’t care. It’s a bloody horror show. Thank God for the Facebook fans, Team Audrey, I would never encourage anyone to produce an Australian musical with original music. Better just grab some pop tunes randomly from US Billboard charts and write a few pages of crap dialogue and call that a script, then call it a new Australian musical. Yep better to do that!”

I feel better now. But, I didn’t actually say that. I hate myself, I really do, I hate myself for ‘thinking’ this way because it just doesn’t sit well with my sunny disposition but sadly there is truth in my words. You could have the best new musical in the world, but if music lovers and industry people don’t support you, don’t bend a little or buy a ticket what chance do Australian composers or writers have. Unless we help each other, I fear every new Australian musical or new work will be ‘DEAD ON ARRIVAL’.

To be honest it wasn’t all doom and gloom for us, we had developed a strong following on Facebook (currently at 1350 likes) and Audrey’s promo videos on Youtube have been viewed over 5000 times collectively, not bad for a relatively unknown Aussie musical.

I chatted to a lot of Team Audrey fans in the foyer during the run, they loved it being set in Melbourne, they got it… but after a season of only six performances in 2015, where we average a healthy 110 to 180 paying punters a night, Audrey Hepburn and I Consider Our Assets was faced with a dilemma… do we die away like every other Aussie musical, or do we travel on?

Forget that nine years have passed since our humble beginnings at Chapel Off Chapel, and be the Aussie musical that can rather than another forgotten one on top of the pile. I’m not a quitter and neither was Audrey herself, just watch Breakfast at Tiffany’s

I remember thinking back to the Australian musicals I had loved in my teenage years, shows performed in pubs and small theatres all over Sydney. Musicals like Pearls Before Swine, Venetian Twins, Legend of King O’Malley, Sentimental Bloke and Oz films like Starstruck. I thought back on some of the musicals I had directed, Dames at Sea, Oliver, Sex the Musical, Dark Angels and Price Check… and decided Audrey and I needed to keep travelling on. That maybe our time was just a musical beat away.

New Beginnings
This month I co-produce and direct a music video of our new song titled Travellers in Time and our story about a neurotic girl from Melbourne with family issues who can’t keep her idol, Hollywood movie star Audrey Hepburn, out of her therapy sessions continues on. But to where? To be honest I don’t know… I do know without your love, your likes and your shares on social media and your cold hard cash (at the box office) the journey will end. So, to Team Audrey fans  and all the new Travellers on board, keep believing in music and in the PINK EXPRESS. ‘Welcome to new beginnings’ – Audrey and Noel xx

Never Create An Australian Musical by Noel Anderson is republished with kind permission of the Author. Read the original article here.

Image: Kelly Cupo starred as Liz in Audrey Hepburn and I Consider Our Assets (supplied)