The Bard goes to Broadway

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Melvyn Morrow... you name it, he's tried it.

“IF Shakespeare were alive today, he’d be writing musicals.”

Well, that’s not conclusive, but it is the opinion of lyricist Melvyn Morrow, the brains behind many old Phillip Street theatre and Mavis Bramston shows, endless updatings of Gilbert and Sullivan for Opera Australia and scripts for “Sons and Daughters”.

He co-wrote the book for the Johnny O’Keefe musical, “Shout!” and for “Dusty”, and he’s still going. Earlier this year, for instance, Morrow and the ABC’s “Macca” wrote the flood-relief song “Gumboots” together.

You name it, he’s tried it. Somewhere along the line, he even managed to father “The Chaser’s” Julian Morrow, but that’s another story.

Julian Kuo... a Shakespeare freak.
Back in the ‘90s, he cooked up shows on his favourite theory about the Bard of Avon, one of the most commercial

playwrights in history, as he tells me. Morrow experimented with one theory in “Tae Kwon Shakespeare”– we saw that at the Queanbeyan at the School of Arts Café – then asked, wouldn’t Shakespeare have wanted some of the action that made Lord Lloyd Webber a multi-millionaire?

In “Broadway Bard”, later used as a fundraiser for Bell Shakespeare, Morrow fooled around with notions such as the natural consequences of Hamlet’s “To Be or Not to Be” and picked up on the exhibitionist aspects of Richard, Duke of Gloucester.

It’s 2011. Enter young jazz bandleader and singer Julian Kuo, a Shakespeare freak just like Morrow, who offers him the chance to pick a new set of songs and Shakespearean extracts. Kuo nominates his favourite plays as “King Lear” and “The Merchant of Venice” as well as the Sonnets, with which he says he has an “unhealthy” obsession.

Morrow and Kuo are singing from the same song sheet when they describe the resulting show as “Shakespeare with absolutely none of the boring bits”.

“Broadway Bard,” Teatro Vivaldi, dinner and show, 7pm, December 2-3. Bookings to 6257 2718.

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Helen Musa
“CityNews” arts editor

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