Stephen Schwartz in Oz

With composer / lyricist Stephen Schwartz’s latest musical Wicked recently opened in Sydney, Peter Pinne looks at why Schwartz ranks right up there alongside Stephen Sondheim, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Rodgers and Hammerstein and Lerner and Loewe with musical theatre audiences ‘down under.’

Stephen Schwartz had his first break in 1971 with a small, off-Broadway entry, Godspell. Based on The Gospel According To St. Mathew, this soft-rock, pop-biblical show took off and ended up playing 2,124 performances.

Fabulous Florrie Forde

Who now remembers Florrie Forde? It’s nearly seventy years since she died and her art is all but forgotten, but many of the songs she introduced and popularised are still sung with nostalgic gusto. For four decades this jolly, buxom songstress sauntered across the music hall stages of Britain. She was billed, accurately, as ‘the world’s greatest chorus singer’ – and she came from Australia.

Strike me lucky! It’s Mo!

For the best part of half a century, two bold letters – MO – outside an Australian theatre would guarantee a full house. Those were the days when Roy Rene, popularly known as ‘Mo’, was indisputably Australia’s clown prince. He had a place in the pantheon that included Ned Kelly, Nellie Melba, Les Darcy, Kingsford Smith and Phar Lap. But that was half a century ago.

Houdini’s Yarra Plunge

On Wednesday February 16, 1910, the following advertisement appeared in Melbourne Newspapers.

Daring Dive. Houdini, the world famous escapologist will appear at the Queens Bridge Tomorrow, Thursday afternoon February 17 at 1.30pm prompt.

Popular Comedian’s Tragic Finale

The masks of comedy and tragedy are often entwined to represent the two faces of theatre. So too does the stage comedian often hide a tragic face.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Englishman George Lauri was Australia's foremost musical comedian. For over 16 years he delighted Australian audiences with a series of superb and unique comic performances, yet behind the laughing stage performer was a troubled man.

Summer of the 17th The Doll – An Australian Classic

Peter Pinne looked at the history of Australia’s first internationally successful play prior to its 2008 revival by Brisbane’s La Boite Theatre Company.

Bigger Than The Beatles

When James Cassius Williamson persuaded reigning world stage superstar Sarah Bernhardt to tour here in 1891, he pulled off a coup unequalled in Australian entertainment industry history before or since – even bigger that The Beatles.

Australia’s Most Popular Actress … 100 Years Ago

American, Minnie Tittell Brune was the most popular actress on the Australian stage between 1904 and 1909. Perhaps it was her long dark hair, perfect manners, quiet religious sentiment or her San Francisco accent that endeared her to Australian audiences. Strangely she never duplicated her Australian success overseas.

Our Early Amateurs

Some little time ago I found this postcard promoting the Railway and Tramway Musical Society production of the comic opera  Les Cloches de Corneville. The reverse revealed that the production was at the Railway Institute on February 1 & 2 1907, and that tickets cost 2 shillings and 1 shilling, with reservations at 6d extra available at Palings. A company member had spent a penny in postage to encourage family members to attend. 102 years later, I suppose we’d SMS, email or twitter a reminder today.

Making a Scene in the 1800s

Leann Richards discovered that making a living in the craft side of the performing arts has long been hard going. The 19th century was a time of change for the art of scenic design. In the last years of the century the introduction of electricity and development of three dimensional stage design turned the artist designer into a multi tasking tradesman.