BroadwayWorld Down Under - So Much to Sing and Dance About in 2012!

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For musical theatre lovers Down Under, 2012 gave us much to sing and dance about. We watched new musicals struggle to find their footing, a 60-year old classic make its triumphant return, and premiered blockbuster hits straight from the West End.

On screen the hit TV show THE VOICE showcased some of our most talented theatre singers, and I WILL SURVIVE provided the perfect vehicle to send our best triple threat to Broadway.

Over on the Great White Way itself, our favourite leading man made his long-awaited debut as Daddy Warbucks, and as the year rounded out, audiences all over the world settled in to watch our Hugh and Russ battle it out in the epic screen version of LES MISERABLES.

Along the way we played host to international luminaries including Elaine Paige, Lea Salonga and Ruthie Henshall, while all over our cities and towns cabaret continued to introduce us to new and wonderful local talent.

In a year where we were spoilt for choice, it took much deliberation for this Broadway baby to narrow it down to a top five for 2012:

SOUTH PACIFIC starring Lisa McCune and Teddy Tahu Rhodes

I'd read the reviews out of Sydney. I knew the leads had chemistry, that the production had moved the grandson of Oscar Hammerstein to tears, that the story was still resonating 60 years after SOUTH PACIFIC was written. So I thought I'd like it, maybe even like it a lot. I didn't expect to love it so much that I went back two nights later to see it again. I didn't expect to burst into tears every time Teddy Tahu Rhodes opened his mouth and unleashed that voice. I haven't been so immersed in a production since I was a kid, back in that wonderful time where a night at the theatre was everything. This revival of SOUTH PACIFIC really brought the magic back.

For my love-letter review of Melbourne's opening night, click here.

ANNIE with Anthony Warlow

ANNIE is the musical that started it all for me, and though I remain partial to Albert Finney's big-screen Warbucks (I may have seen the film version oh, say, 200 times!), Anthony Warlow really is Daddy Warbucks to thousands of Australians - and now to American audiences, where he has taken up the role in his acclaimed Broadway debut. I defy anyone to resist a show that has ridiculously cute orphans, catchy tunes, 1930's New York, and an affirming message about the sun and tomorrow.

The 2012 Australian production, with its Warlow, it's orphans and its stellar supporting cast was just as toe-tapping and sun-shiny as ever, 30 years (eek!) after I first fell in love with ANNIE.

CHESS - The Production Company

The first professional production I ever saw was CHESS, back in the 90's. I got to experience two of the original cast members, Murray Head and Tommy Koberg (not a bad introduction!), and thus hold high expectations for this prettiest of musical theatre shows. The problem with BroadwayWorld Down Under - So Much to Sing and Dance About in 2012!CHESS however is that you never know which show you are going to get - there have been so many re-writes and re-imaginings of this Cold War story that the final product can sometimes feel like a patchwork quilt - everything is sewn together well enough, but still clashes madly.

Not so with the Gale Edwards directed CHESS from The Production Company's 2012 season. Using minimal props and simple design, Benny and Bjorn's music was allowed to be the star of this show, and in the capable hands of Silvie Paladino as Florence, it lit up the night. It was moving, lyrical and passionate, and not for the first time did I wish The Production Company had longer runs for their wonderful shows. Here's hoping they haven't packed away the chess board for good.

Read BroadwayWorld's review of CHESS here. Continued next page.

THE ADELAIDE CABARET FESTIVAL featuring Lea Salonga

Each year the world's biggest cabaret festival gets even - well - bigger! In 2012 Kate Ceberano took over the Artistic Director reins from David Campbell and the singer-songwriter proved a worthy successor to the title. Her 2012 program featured nearly 200 Australian artists including local theatre legend Debbie Byrne, and just over 100 International Artists, headlined by Broadway superstar Lea Salonga.

For 16 nights in June, Adelaide was the cabaret capitol of the world, and with Idina Menzel already announced for Ceberano's second festival, we can expect the magic to continue in 2013.

SIDE BY SIDE BY SONDHEIM concert featuring Ruthie Henshall

It's no secret that I'm a massive Ruthie Henshall fan. She's my favourite Fantine and my favourite Roxie, and when producer Enda Markey announced he was bringing this legend to Australia for the first time, to say I was excited would be an understatement (picture much dancing around the living room!). Even better was the reason for her visit - to headline a charity concert of SIDE BY SIDE BY SONDHEIM to benefit the White Ribbon Foundation.

Markey put together a Hey Mr Producer-worthy stable of Australian talent for the night, with a line-up that included Lucy Durack, Peter Cousens, Michael Falzon, Rachael Beck and Helen Dallimore. With the concert featuring some of Sondheim's best-loved compositions including Send in the Clowns and Losing my Mind, there was highlight after highlight on the night. For me it was the defining theatre moment of 2012 - and more proof that Australian musical theatre talent is right up there - side by side - with the best in the world.

BroadwayWorld Down Under - So Much to Sing and Dance About in 2012!

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That rounds out my top five musical moments of 2012 - a by no means exhaustive list, missing as it is the sparkle of LEGALLY BLONDE, the considered revival of A CHORUS LINE, the Geoffrey Rush led A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM and the magic of CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG. Special mention too, for both AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN and MOONSHADOW - though their runs were cut short, it remains a privilege of living down under that we get to premiere brand new musicals and workshop them for the rest of the world to later enjoy.

Happy New Year Aussie theatre lovers, and to all of you around the world! Stay tuned for our preview of what to expect in 2013 - a year already shaping up as one of our best yet (and that's just the things we can reveal!!).

Special thanks to all those who shared their brains on musical theatre with us in 2012:

Michael Falzon, Rachael Beck, Ruthie Henshall, Marina Prior, Rob Mills, Delia Hannah, Elaine Paige, David Campbell, Kate Ceberano, Eddie Perfect, Dan Koek, Lucy Maunder, Mitchell Butel and Lucy Durack. We love that you all still sing in the shower!!

Top image: Teddy Tahu Rhodes and Lisa McCune embrace in SOUTH PACIFIC. Photo credit:Jeff Busby

Bottom image: Ruthie Henshall and the cast of SIDE BY SIDE BY SONDHEIM. Photo credit: Kurt Sneddon

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Jacqueline Bublitz Jacqueline "Rock" Bublitz is a Melbourne-based writer who saw a local production of Annie aged 5, and was never quite the same. Since that first transformative experience, she has been lucky enough to experience musical theatre all over the world. Many of her favourite productions have played right on her doorstep here in Melbourne, and she loves this about her creative home town. In addition to a day job in media, Rock has just completed her first novel, 'The Memory of Stars'. She also blogs about life and love at www.bodyremember.com (where she shamelessly mines the world of musical theatre for inspiration!).


 
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