A Pop Diva, a Spelling Bee and some Virgins

Two musicals had their Australian premieres in Melbourne in January. One was a World Premiere the other the first International production of a Tony� Award winning Broadway hit.

Dusty – The Original Pop Diva is an Australian World Premiere work written by John-Michael Howson, David Mitchell and Melvyn Morrow about Dusty Springfield. Featuring a song list of more than 22 of her hit singles the show covers the rise and fall of this all-time great pop performer. The show has been doing big box office business and will do an Australian capital city tour. Plans are now under way for productions in London and the United States. Ste and costume design is by Tony� Award winner Roger Kirk. The choreography is by Ross Coleman. Tamsin Carroll is fantastic as Dusty. The surprise discovery in the show is newcomer Alexis Fishman in the role of the �young Dusty� Mary O’Brien.

The 25 th Annual Putman County Spelling Bee won the hearts of Broadway audiences with its clever writing by Rachel Sheinkin and delightful score by the eternally talented William Finn. The first new production since the Broadway opening occurred in Melbourne (Australia)   on the   18 th January. Directed by Simon Phillips along with the guidance of Sheinkin and Finn who paid a brief visit to Melbourne for the opening the show has now won the hearts of Melbourne audiences too. The stellar cast includes: David Campbell, Tyler Coppin, Bert Labonte, Natalie Mendoza, Natalie O’Donnell, Christen O’Leary, Marina Prior, Magda Szubanski and Tim Wright.   The Melbourne season has already been extended to March 11, and the production looks destined to tour.

Virgins is an original work by the very talented team of Dean Bryant and Matthew Frank. Winning acclaim for their musical Prodigal Australia and New York (York Theatre Production), Bryant and Frank have put pen to paper creating three mini musicals presented as a trilogy under the title Virgins. The first show entitled The Virgin Wars is a crusade by a group of high school girls against sexually promiscuity. It’s a bit like Debbie Does Dallas with a twist. The second musical is called Girl On A Screen . This is a modern interpretation of the computer dating scene. The best and strongest piece is the third musical entitled Jumpin’ the Q . This mini musical deals with the controversial issue of refugees and immigration. Staged as a version of Australian Idol on a cruise ship four lucky refugees are   given the opportunity of winning an entertainment contract and an entry visa into �the lucky country�. The competition is fierce and the ending poignant to this very clever show. Virgins had a limited engagement in February at the new Tower Theater @ The Malthouse, but I’m sure we will see more of this work in the near future.

Seriously – The Pet Shop Boys Reinterpreted is conceived and written by David Knox and Dean Lotherington. This musical looks at the work of The Pet Shop Boys from a different angle. Removing that predictable rhythm track from The Pet Shop Boys sound, Knox and Lotherington look for the deeper meaning in the music and lyrics of this British pop duo. The concept is a good one, but while it was given a glowing review in Variety, I feel it needs a bit more work in its pacing tone and direction. Keep an eye out for further productions of this show too.

Finally, two brief mentions:

Russell Fletcher has created an entertaining piece for Danny Kaye enthusiasts, A Tribute to Danny Kaye . This show won the 2005 Melbourne Fringe Festival Award for Best Comedy. Russell highlights Danny Kaye’s life and career while dazzling us with renditions of some of Kaye’s funniest moments.

Topol, is touring Fiddler on the Roof around Australia. The season concludes with a Melbourne run from 10 June at Her Majesty’s Theatre.

�See you at the theatre�

� Henry Sachwald 2006

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