WHEN an uplifting musical about the late Nelson Mandela arrives at the Canberra Theatre later this month, the audience may well be jumping with joy. For “Madiba the Musical” has a heart-warming message of renewal […]
“IT’S AN amazing event that will have people talking about it for years,” Chief Minister Andrew Barr predicted this morning as he announced that the Canberra Theatre would host a new production of “Mamma Mia” in November 2017 as part of its annual subscription program.
Although Mr Barr noted that “at least one intrepid news organisation may have broken the news a little early,” there was an audible intake of breath as he named of the famous ABBA musical, Catherine Johnson’s story about a young bride-to-be, enhanced by the songs of original ABBA members Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus.
The production will premiere in Canberra and only afterwards travel to Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney, he said, and would accompany the ‘opening up’ of Canberra to the world also seen the introduction of international flights in September.
Mr Barr said he had had a cup of coffee with producer Louise Withers two years ago and put forth his view that “all major shows should start in Canberra,” so this announcement was he said, was “a fantastic result for our city”, and would demonstrate that “this is a city like no other.”
Producer Louise Withers, fresh from a successful opening of “Fawlty Towers” in Sydney and still bathing in the glory of multiple awards for “Matilda” at the Helpmanns, both produced by her with colleague Michel Coppel and linda Bewick, told of how “Mamma Mia” had first premiered in London during 1999, opened in Australia in 2001 and then, after some deliberation, had been staged in New York just after 9/11.
At the time the “New York Times” described it as “the cupcake New York City needed,” but Wither preferred to describe it as “a fluffy night at the theatre” or “ the perfect pill for the end of a long day.”
She said that Canberra Theatre director Bruce Carmichael had begun talking to her two years ago about ways in which Canberra could become part of the touring circuit. It would require intestinal fortitude and a team of united stakeholders to bring it off.
It would be necessary for 30,000 people from Canberra and the wider region to see the show to break even, and would mean clever marketing and the support of bodies like Visit Canberra, whose director, Ian Hill was on hand, the Cultural Facilities Corporation, hotels, taxis and restaurants.
As had been done with “Matilda,” there would be an exciting one stop shop offering packages to see the show and she had no doubt there would be punters around the country eager to get in first.
Withers later told “CityNews” that some of the dozen or so entrepreneurs operating in Australia would have shows that could fit into the relatively small Canberra Theatre, but that, along with Carmichael she believed the ultimate solution would be a new larger Canberra Theatre.
“Success breeds success,” Withers said.
“Mamma Mia” the musical, Canberra Theatre, November 2017. subscription bookings open on October 17 and general public tickets go on sale prior to Christmas. Waitlist at canberratheatrecentre.com.au