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For an industry in an existential crisis it can only be described as an incredible shot in the arm: on Thursday night the premiere Broadway staging of the Australian-produced Moulin Rouge! the Musical was nominated for an astounding 14 Tony Awards.
The show – based on Baz Luhrmann’s 2001 film and produced by Global Creatures – is the first Australian-produced musical to originate on Broadway.
Its 14 Tony nominations, announced early on Friday morning Australian time, fall just two short of the record 16 garnered by Hamilton in 2016. They include nods for best musical; direction (for Alex Timbers); book (US writer John Logan); choreography (Sonya Tayeh); and costume design (Catherine Zuber), with best performance nods for actors Karen Olivo (who plays the tuberculosis-stricken Satine), Aaron Tveit (Christian) and Danny Burtein (Moulin impresario Harold Zidler).
Moulin Rouge! the Musical is the fourth musical production by Global Creatures, which was founded by Gerry Ryan and Carmen Pavlovic in Melbourne in 2007. The company’s previous works include the Australian movie adaptations Strictly Ballroom the Musical, Muriel’s Wedding the Musical, and the critically panned spectacular King Kong.
The news was “pretty great”, said Pavlovic, the chief executive of Global Creatures. “Great in a year that’s been a tough one for all of us in the industry. It’s good to have some news we can celebrate.”
Eligible productions have been severely restricted thanks to Covid-19 theatre shutdowns. The musical theatre category pits just three productions against each other (Moulin is up against the Alanis Morrisette musical Jagged Little Pill and Tina: The Tina Turner Musical). Tveit is the sole nominee in the best lead actor in a musical category – and the Tony awards show itself will be held as a virtual ceremony.
“I think it’s going to be more about standing together as a community rather than individual achievements in each of the shows,” Pavlovic said. “It will remind us what we’re all fighting for and what we’re all so desperate to come back to.”
Moulin Rouge! the Musical opened on Broadway in June 2019. The show’s season was suspended in March when New York’s theatres were closed. At least four members of the cast were reported to have contracted Covid, including Tveit.
The Broadway show is expected to reopen early next year, followed soon afterwards by the show’s Australian premiere. Pavlovic hopes Moulin’s sails will be turning by mid-2021 at Melbourne’s Regent Theatre.
The Australian production will come under scrutiny as the debate about the lack of racial diversity in musical theatre casting continues to simmer, in the wake of the controversy provoked by the Rob Guest endowment award (and its subsequent cancellation), and the decision by the Australian producer John Frost to import a US performer of colour to play a leading role in Pippin, rather than cast from the local pool of diverse talent.
Moulin Rouge! would feature a diverse and all-Australian cast, Pavlovic said.
“The upside of Covid is that we’ve all had time to look inward,” she said. “From a global perspective, generally, Global Creatures has really embraced diverse casting in our shows. It is a very deliberate choice for us.”
As a woman running a major company, Pavlovic has looked hard at gender and how women are represented organisationally and on stage. The company’s embrace of racial diversity would be similarly root and branch, she said.
“We’ve had a lot of listening meetings on Broadway with every department of the show. We’re looking at training in management bias and anti-racism. It’s about asking what sort of workplace we want to create for the future. The crisis we’re in at the moment is traumatic but at the same time it’s such an incredible opportunity to step back and ask those hard questions.”
The next few months would be difficult for Global Creatures to navigate, Pavlovic said. The Melbourne opening is by no means certain and the new wave of coronavirus cases in the UK are likely to impact Moulin Rouge’s West End opening, slated for March.
“This interim period is very tough,” she said “Basically no income. Everything dried up on the spot.”
Boris Johnson’s predictions of a difficult winter in London and the possibility of political instability in the US after the presidential election is also weighing on her mind.
“We’ve stopped trying to guess the future, just work on the things that are within our control,” she said, adding that the situation in Australia seems markedly better than in other territories where Global Creatures has a footprint.
“We’re keeping all of our production planning moving forward while being as flexible as we can. When things come back, we’ll be ready to go.”
All that will remain then is: will the audience come?
“There’s a lot of pent-up demand, particularly among young people, and that’s obviously good for us with Moulin Rouge,” Pavlovic said. “But we won’t be reopening our theatres until we feel it’s safe enough for all audiences, and safe for the people on stage and backstage.
“It’s got to be more than safe. It’s got to be a comfortable experience to come to the theatre, not a hair-raising one.”
Source: The Guardian
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