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 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.