THEATRE: EVIE MAY

Vaude­ville is brought back to life through the eyes of Evie May, the cen­tral char­ac­ter in a new, orig­i­nal Aus­tralian mu­si­cal.

DNA Magazine - - CONTENT #225 -

WHEN IT comes to orig­i­nal mu­si­cals, Aus­tralia is still find­ing its way. Priscilla, Strictly Ball­room, Ge­orgy Girl and The Boy From Oz have shown what’s pos­si­ble, but we still need to reach be­yond the juke­box mu­si­cal for­mat for orig­i­nal mu­sic com­po­si­tions.

New Mu­si­cals Aus­tralia de­vel­ops orig­i­nal mu­si­cals through Syd­ney’s Hayes Theatre. With Melba and The De­tec­tive’s Hand­book al­ready un­der their belt, the lat­est pro­duc­tion Evie May, tells the story of a vet­eran va­ri­ety per­former and her jour­ney from re­gional West­ern Aus­tralia to vi­brant Syd­ney. Set in 1966, on the eve of the last per­for­mance at the Tivoli Theatre, May’s life is told in flash­backs.

Writer, Hugo Chiarella de­vel­oped the idea while per­form­ing in the re­cent Aus­tralian pro­duc­tion of Les Mis­er­ables. Naomi Liv­ingston wrote the score.

“Naomi came to me with an idea cen­tered around this char­ac­ter in a dress­ing room, who tells her story,” says Chiarella. “We talked it over for a long time and de­cided that the fi­nal decades of the Aus­tralian Vaude­ville cir­cuit, at the Tivoli, would make a great set­ting,” he says.

“I’ve al­ways been fas­ci­nated by the Tivoli. The pe­riod, from pre-World War II through to its fi­nal days, was a time of such enor­mous cul­tural trans­for­ma­tion in Aus­tralia and it’s a rich back­drop to set our story against.”

“I think peo­ple will re­late to all the cen­tral char­ac­ters,” says Chiarella. “The show is set in an era that was par­tic­u­larly dif­fi­cult for women. Evie has a child out of wed­lock, chooses not to marry, and ul­ti­mately falls in love with a woman. These things just weren’t spo­ken about in Aus­tralia in the ’30s and ’40s. Les­bian­ism wasn’t even il­le­gal in Aus­tralia at that point be­cause peo­ple didn’t think it ex­isted!

“Evie’s story is about some­one striv­ing to as­sert their place in the world in the face of marginal­i­sa­tion and, un­for­tu­nately, that’s still an ex­pe­ri­ence that a lot can re­late to.”

Amanda Har­ri­son (Wicked) plays the older, re­flec­tive Evie, while Loren Hunter (Rent) plays the younger woman. Kate Cham­pion (Noth­ing To Lose) di­rects an im­pres­sive cast in­clud­ing DNA favourites Tim Draxl (A Place To Call Home) and Kee­gan Joyce (Please Like Me), Jo Turner (The Mer­chant Of Venice) and Bis­hanyia Vin­cent (Starfish).

Does Chiarella see Aus­tralia as a theatre en­vi­ron­ment where orig­i­nal mu­si­cals can suc­ceed and flour­ish?

“I hope so,” he says. “Muriel’s Wed­ding was an ex­cit­ing step for­ward. It’s great to see an Aus­tralian show with an orig­i­nal score get­ting sup­port from a sub­sidised com­pany and com­mer­cial pro­ducer. The fact that it did so well and that it’s go­ing to have a life be­yond its orig­i­nat­ing sea­son is enor­mously ex­cit­ing. I hope it paves the way for more. But mu­si­cals are risky; they are ex­pen­sive to de­velop and pro­duce. That New Mu­si­cal Aus­tralia along with the Syd­ney Theatre Com­pany and Queens­land Theatre Com­pany are be­gin­ning to sup­port orig­i­nal mu­si­cals is en­cour­ag­ing.”

“To me, Evie May is about cul­ture, com­mu­nity and con­nec­tion,” says Chiarella. “I hope peo­ple watch it and be­come more aware of a part in our cul­tural past that’s been largely for­got­ten. The core mes­sage is about the im­por­tance of con­nect­ing with one an­other to form com­mu­ni­ties.”

Loren Hunter and Amanda Har­ri­son as Evie; (in­set) writer, Hugo Chiarella.

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