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Sydney Theatre Company and Global Creatures have today announced that Gary Sweet has been cast as Muriel’s father Bill Heslop in the new musical based on PR Hogan’s iconic film Muriel’s Wedding.
When it was revealed in June that Maggie McKenna – the 20-year old daughter of comedian/actor Gina Riley (Kath & Kim) – had landed the starring role of Muriel, there were still several key roles left to cast. Since then, it has been announced that Madeleine Jones will play Muriel’s best friend Rhonda. Jones played the lead role of the Girl in the musical Once and joined the cast of the Australian musical Ladies in Black, directed by Simon Phillips for Queensland Theatre, for this year’s tour. Phillips also helms Muriel’s Wedding.
Gary Sweet plays Bill Heslop in Muriel's Wedding The Musical. Photograph © Darren Leigh Roberts
Now, the final piece of the casting jigsaw puzzle is in place with the news that Sweet will play Muriel’s father Bill Heslop, a corrupt councillor who cheats on his wife and bullies his children. The role was made famous in the film by Bill Hunter, who died in 2011.
“Bill and I worked together on many occasions and he and I were great mates,” Sweet said. “I hope to do him proud and expect a sign from him, wherever he is, to let me know how I'm going.”
Sweet added that he was looking forward to playing such a wonderful villain. “He’s a scoundrel and a blaggard, he’s rambunctious, nasty at times, duplicitous and completely selfish… what an absolutely delightfully disgraceful character for an actor… mind you he does get his comeuppance!”
Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, he said: “He’s a terrible father and husband, but he must have some characteristics that are appealing. I’m going to try to squeeze some charm into him.”
Sweet made his name in television in show such as The Sullivans, Bodyline and Police Rescue. His many screen credits since then include House Husbands, Janet King, The Doctor Blake Murder Mysteries, Wake in Fright and Wolf Creek. On stage, he has appeared in David Williamson’s The Club and Tony McNamara’s The Recruit for Melbourne Theatre Company and the musical La Cage Aux Folles for The Production Company.
Phillips said: “It’s gratifying to realise that one of Australia’s most renowned bad boys has grown old enough to inherit the shoes left by the late great Bill Hunter. ‘Bill the Battler’ has achieved iconic status as an incorrigible Aussie scoundrel, but like everyone in Muriel’s Wedding he needs to be played by an actor of eye-twinkling charm. There can be no doubt that Gary fits the bill (no pun intended) in every way – he has effortless comic gifts and outrageous charisma. And, who’d’ve thought it, he can sing! He has put the icing on the cake of our Muriel’s cast.”
Muriel’s Wedding The Musical features an updated book by PJ Hogan and a new score by Kate Miller-Heidke and Keir Nuttall, as well as the ABBA songs from the film.
Muriel’s Wedding The Musical plays at Sydney’s Roslyn Packer Theatre from November 6