Writing a new musical is a huge undertaking; as the old adage goes musicals are rewritten, not written, and take a great deal of development time.
Yesterday Garry McQuinn, the leading producer of one of Australia’s most successful Australian musicals Priscilla Queen of the Desert (currently playing in Adelaide), announced that his company RGM Productions, which he spearheads with Rina Gill, has entered into a groundbreaking partnership with the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) and Destination NSW to turn the 1982 Australian film Starstruck into a stage musical.
The announcement was made yesterday at NIDA, at the start of a two-work workshop, using undergraduate musical theatre students and post-graduate students to hone and develop the show’s book, which has been written by Mitchell Butel. It is the first time that NIDA has been involved in the development of a big commercial musical in this way.
McQuinn, who studied at NIDA himself, described the film Starstruck as ”an Australian fairytale” and “a neglected classic” telling yesterday’s crowd: “I thought why on earth has no one done this before?”
Directed by Gillian Armstrong, and produced by David Elfick and Richard Brennan, Starstruck was Australia’s first movie musical. Set in Sydney, it told a semi-autobiographical story written by Stephen MacLean (The Boy From Oz) about quirky teenager Jackie (Jo Kennedy), who lives in a failing pub with her mother and dreams of becoming a rock star, with her cousin Angus (Ross O’Donovan) as her manager.
It features a soundtrack of songs, many from Michael Gudinski’s Mushroom Records, including Body and Soul by Tim Finn, the title song by Phil Judd, and The Monkey in Me! by Dennis Nattrass. The stage show will include more Mushroom songs from the 1980s.
Simon Phillips will direct. Phillips has a great track record developing new musicals with credits including Priscilla, the hugely successful Muriel’s Wedding which returns in 2019 after a recent sell-out season at Sydney Theatre Company, and Tim Finn’s Ladies in Black.
The choreography will be by Andrew Hallsworth, who also worked on Priscilla and Muriel’s Wedding, while Brian Thomson (Priscilla, the original version of The Rocky Horror Show, Jesus Christ Superstar) will design.
The new musical is also supported by Mushroom Music Publishing, Elfick’s Palm Beach Pictures, and Stephen Found of Foundation Theatres which operates Sydney’s Capitol Theatre and Lyric Theatre.
Kate Cherry, the Director/CEO of NIDA, Gillian Armstrong, Elfick, Thomson, Butel and Sandra Chipchase from Destination NSW were among those at the launch yesterday to support the announcement and celebrate the start of the development process.
The plan is for a version of the musical to be staged at NIDA’s Parade Theatre late next year, performed by the 2019 musical theatre graduating class.