Season Preview: Your guide to the arts in 2021

The Australian Musical Theatre Festival has announced its Festival Headline Artists for 2021. Simon Gleeson, Natalie O’Donnell and Callum Francis will be heading south for the festival, which is held in Launceston, Tasmania, in May.

Simon GleesonSimon Gleeson. Photo courtesy of Australian Musical Theatre Festival

“To have just one of these names is a coup but to have all three performing and collaborating together in Launceston is nothing short of a miracle,” said Festival Executive Producer, Tyran Parke. “Each are wonderful singers who are rarely seen outside of big commercial musicals in Melbourne and Sydney, each are passionate educators, and each are committed to finding new ways of exploring Musical Theatre in Australia, while celebrating the rich history of what has been.”

“The Festival will be a meeting place to develop new work, celebrate the classics and engage in local Launceston culture, through the elements of Musical Theatre; song, dance and story,” he said.

Callum FrancisCallum Francis. Photo courtesy of Australian Musical Theatre Festival

Francis’s credits include Kinky Boots, Miss Saigon, The Lion King and most recently the Sydney Opera House production of Rent. “Theatre is a huge part of our everyday living and 2020 has deprived us of it. So, it will be an absolutely joy to bring some to life again,” he said. “Art is SO important, for telling stories and allowing us to learn about how other people are and live. I can’t wait to share my experiences and learn from the new ones this festival offers.”

Gleeson has appeared in shows including Chess, Oklahoma! and Love Never Dies, but is especially known for his Jean Valjean in Les Misérables, while O’Donnell has starred in shows including Spelling Bee, Crazy for You, Jerry’s Girls and Mamma Mia. “Simon and I are thrilled to be invited to be a part of this year’s festival,” O’Donnell said. “The landscape of Australian Musical theatre is a rich and vibrant one and to be a part of this National Festival which not only celebrates and highlights Australian works, stories and professional artists but also invests in young performers and our future stars, is truly exciting.”

Natalie O’Donnell. Photo courtesy of Australian Musical Theatre Festival

“I am so blown away by our superstar guest artists who have chosen to join us this year,” said the festival’s Artistic Director John Xintavelonis. “What a great opportunity for our local performers to get to know, learn and be inspired by some of the best in the business, and that includes me….hahahaha…so get to Launceston any way you can, you can’t afford to miss this year’s Musical Theatre Festival.”


The Australian Musical Theatre Festival takes place in Launceston, Tasmania, 19 – 23 May

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