Queensland Theatre Company (QTC) has announced that the critically acclaimed, smash hit and Helpmann-Award winning musical Ladies in Black will tour nationally in early 2017, opening in Sydney on 3 January for its premiere season in the city in which the story is based. The show will then return for an encore season to Brisbane from 28 January, before another encore season in Melbourne from 25 February, and to Canberra from 27 March.
From the adaptation of Madeleine St John’s 1993 novel, The Women in Black, this acclaimed production has been brought to life by Australian screenwriter Carolyn Burns and internationally-acclaimed director Simon Phillips (Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Love Never Dies) with original music from legendary singer songwriter, Tim Finn OBE (Split Enz, Crowded House).
The world premiere of Ladies in Black, the stylish story of fashion, friendship and 1950s Australia took place in Brisbane in November 2015 with the frock-fest signalling a stunning and triumphant return of musical theatre for the company. Last month Ladies in Black won the coveted Helpmann Award for Best New Australian Work and was nominated for another five awards.
The show features over 20 original songs written by Tim Finn and a stunning range of some 30 custom-designed and created dresses and suits. The genesis of Ladies in Black actually happened at the Brisbane Airport – Tim Finn was famously looking for a book to read, bought The Women in Black and on reading it, was compelled to call Simon Phillips and plant the seed for a stage production. On the plane, he started writing the music. The rest is history.
Revisiting the role of Lisa, the young starry eyed school-leaver is Queensland-born rising star, Sarah Morrison. Sarah studied Opera at the Queensland Conservatorium after high school, and then moved to Victoria to follow her first love in musical theatre. In this her first pivotal role, she has won acclaim and ovation.
The brilliant Bobby Fox, who wowed audiences playing Frankie Valli in the smash hit, Jersey Boys, returns as Rudi (otherwise known as the ‘Continental’) along with the multi-talented and award-winning artist Carita Farrer Spencer who will play Mrs Miles, and fellow Queensland graduate and music and stage star Kathryn McIntyre who will play Myra.
Accomplished Melbourne-based actor Greg Stone (Once, The Weir, The Glitch) takes on the dual roles again as Mr Miles and Stefan, Kate Cole again takes to the stage as the characters Miss Cartwright and Joy. Taking the role of Fay is leading singer and stage performer, Ellen Simpson, who was most recently seen as Renee Geyer on television screens in the blockbuster tv-series, Molly.
New to the cast for the Australian tour is the leading lady of stage and screen Natalie Gamsu (Strictly Ballroom, Mary Poppins, Dr Zhivago, Neighbours) who will play the character of Magda, as well as Sydney-based Madeleine Jones who was nominated for a Helpmann Award in 2015 for her work in Once. She will play Patty. Two cast members remain yet to be announced.
QTC Artistic Director Sam Strong said the national tour of Ladies in Black was the perfect reflection of Queensland Theatre Company and its commitment to create nationally acclaimed theatre. “I’m thrilled to be launching the national tour of Ladies in Black,” said Strong
“At QTC we couldn’t be more proud of this joyous new Australian musical. In its first life, this beautiful show charmed audiences in Brisbane and Melbourne. We’re delighted to be bringing it back to those cities where audiences couldn’t get enough. We’re also delighted to take the show to new cities, including Sydney where it is set, so it can weave its spell on thousands of new people.”
“The show embodies our new vision to lead from Queensland. Ladies in Black captures the future of the QTC and is a shining example of what we will be doing in years to come: combining the best artists from inside and outside Queensland, spotting the brightest new talent first, creating landmark new Australian stories, and launching world class world premieres in Brisbane. Stay tuned for even more about the future of theatre in Queensland when we launch our 2017 season on 12 September.”
With a dash of delicate comedy, Ladies in Black is a magical modern-day fairytale set in a stylish department store – F.G. Goode – in a city on the cusp of becoming cosmopolitan: Sydney is crossing the threshold between the stuffy repression of the 1950s and the glorious liberation of the 1960s.
Donning a distinguished black dress, the bright-eyed, bookish school leaver Lisa is about to join the ranks on the sales floor of the city’s most prestigious department store – temporarily, of course. Her domineering dad intends to railroad her into a career as a secretary, but Lisa has grander schemes in mind.
In that summer of innocence, a world of possibilities opens up as she befriends the unlucky Fay, the frustrated Patty; 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 will play: Sydney Lyric Theatre: 3 – 22 January; Queensland Performing Arts Centre: 28 January – 19 February; Regent Theatre, Melbourne: 25 February – 19 March; and Canberra Theatre Centre: 27 March – 2 April 2017. For more information, visit: www.ladiesinblack.com.au for details.
Image: Ladies in Black – photo by Rob Maccoll