Publication: Sydney Morning Herald | Author: Nick Miller
“If we don’t try, we might be in the position where we go another year without doing anything,” says musical producer David Venn.
For most of the year Venn has been stuck at home in Melbourne, enduring lockdowns amid the wreckage of his industry.
On Monday Venn stood on stage at the Athenaeum theatre and promised that 2021 is going to be a lot more fun. The Wedding Singer, based on the Adam Sandler movie, is not just coming off the shelf (it had been due to open June this year), but is expanding into a national tour that will take in Melbourne, Sydney, Gold Coast and Adelaide.
“It is a risk,” he says – there’s no pandemic insurance, so every performance is at the mercy of the coronavirus. “But you’ve got to do something. As a producer it’s kind of your responsibility to try and get things happening again.”
Venn says all eyes in the industry are on NSW, where musicals Pippin and Frozen are due to open in the next few weeks.
“I think everyone’s very supportive of them being the first ones back. It’s an exciting time for the industry and everyone’s learning from each other.”
Another positive sign was Queensland announcing it would allow 100 per cent capacity in theatres – Venn will at first sell theatres to 50 per cent capacity in the rest of the country, but hopes that by April 2021 all his theatres will be full.
But if restrictions are still in force he’s talking to venues about the possibility of souvenirs and refreshments being delivered to seats, to reduce the crush at the bar at interval and after the show.
They will also plan for social distancing on stage, “as much as we can”, and may create a “tour bubble” for the cast and crew to keep them, and the audience safe. There will be an “easy exchange policy” for tickets, to make audience members comfortable about cancelling if they have a sniffle.
Casting begins now (he’s auditioning not only musical theatre professionals but also real-life wedding singers).
The Wedding Singer is a nostalgia play: set in the 80s, harking back to a golden time when not only didn’t we have a pandemic, we also didn’t have the internet or tasteful fashion.
Venn says it’s the perfect post-pandemic show: “It doesn’t take itself seriously – you’ve got big hair, over-the-top outfits. It’s a big party and a laugh-out loud experience”.
For Melbourne, it’s a case of having no musicals for months, and then two come along in the same week. Also announced on Monday was Chess, the Tim Rice musical penned by two ABBA members, which also opens in April at the Regent, opposite the Athenaeum.
Director Tyran Parke, head of musical theatre at the Victorian College of the Arts has always wanted to bring the show to the stage. He was a young fan when the double album was released in 1984 and said he was “one of those theatre nerds who has read every version of the script”.
“I’ve always been intrigued by it. The score is so good and there are always new versions of it appearing around the world but I just want to celebrate the music.”