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New book is a definitive look at Australian musical theatre


Musical theatre has a special place in the hearts of Australians. Whether it’s The Boy from Oz, Bran Nue Dae or Muriel's Wedding, Australians love to see Australian stories on the big stage with all the glamour, energy and vibrancy a musical can offer.

However magical they are on stage, performances leave behind few traces. Australia has a rich, hidden history of achievement in musical theatre which is now largely forgotten. Drawing on their long careers in musical performance, and extensive research in public and private collections, Peter Wyllie Johnston and Peter Pinne have compiled a definitive account of the history of musical theatre in Australia.

From small amateur performances in the early days, to international achievements, to the new wave of Australian musicals from the 1990s right through to the 21st century, they recount the successes and disappointments of one of the most demanding art forms.

This tribute also comes with an authoritative guide to more than 300 Australian musicals. Richly illustrated with colour photos from the early days to the present, The Australian Musical is an invaluable resource for anyone involved with theatre and music.

Peter Wyllie Johnston is a musician and writer, Director of the Australian Music Theatre Research Institute (TAMTRI) and Associate Professor with honorary status at the University of Melbourne. His publications include From the Melburnian (2011), The Nick Enright Songbook (2014), Morag Beaton-Her Life and Her Art (2019) and more than 200 articles on music. He is the composer of the music and lyrics of Moses—the Spirit of Freedom, the additional book of Joanna White's Girl in Pink, and the music, lyrics and book (with literary contributions by Trent O'Bryan) of Tamarama.

Peter Pinne is one of the most prolific creators of Australian stage musicals, with credits including Prisoner- Cell Block H the Musical, and the theme tune for Sons and Daughters. For many years he worked in senior roles for the Grundy Organisation on such iconic shows as Neighbours, Prisoner, The Young Doctors and Secret Valley. He is the author of the discography Australian Performers, Australian Performances, and writes reviews and articles for industry magazine Stage Whispers.

. The top five most commercially successful Australian musicals (with original scores): 1. The Sentimental Bloke (1961) 2. Keating! The Musical (2005) 3. Eurobeat (2006) 4. Bran Nue Dae (1990) 5. Muriel’s Wedding (2017) Tim Minchin’s Matilda ran for 1,555 performances (three years) on Broadway but the authors don’t classify it as an ‘Australian musical’; rather, it is a musical with music and lyrics by an Australian. Hugh Jackman, winner of the 2004 Tony Award for Best Lead Actor in a Musical for The Boy From Oz, is the only Australian to win a Tony for a lead role in a musical. ‘This is a comprehensive history to consume totally or simply delve into … a must-have for all musical theatre fans and lovers of Australian theatre.’ – Geraldine Turner OAM

‘This fine book is surely the family tree of the Australian musical—an impressive study and fascinating read.’ – Reg Livermore AO.

‘The most comprehensive account of the endeavours of a century of Australian musical theatre—the success, disappointment and determination of dedicated creatives and performers, and I hope an inspiration to continue.’ – Nancye Hayes AM.

‘This compelling chronicle of the hopes, dreams, disappointments and triumphs of the long struggle to create Australian musical theatre has been meticulously researched and engagingly documented by two of its most authoritative devotees.’ – Frank Van Straten AM

Publication date: 5th November 2019 RRP: $79.99 Imprint: Allen & Unwin. Category: Musicals. Contact: Yvette Gilfillan email: yvetteg@allenandunwin.com phone: (02) 8425 0138


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