Merrily We Roll Along was scheduled to roll into  The Hayes in July. Following the COVID-19 outbreak in Sydney, the season has now been extended to September 11.

The Helpmann award winning Director and Choreographer, Dean Bryant and Andrew Hallsworth respectively, took some time to sit down in the foyer of The Hayes and chat with Star Observer about all things musical theatre.

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Once we start talking, you get a sense of the wonderful journey these two creatives have experienced together. As a duo they have brought to life not only successful productions of their own design of popular musicals like Little Shop of Horrors and Fun Home but they have also been integral in the creation of the worldwide smash hit Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, touring the distinctly Australian flavoured musical to theatres everywhere, including Broadway, Korea and Spain among other countries and even a cruise ship version!

Creating New Versions Of Musicals

Dean talks about their careers, “We’re both lucky in that our entire careers have been about creating new versions of musicals, whether that be a new musical from scratch or a new production of a musical. So for me when I choose to work on a show it becomes about what’s in this show that can be brought out that hasn’t been spoken about before and it’s just finding that engine that’s enough to fuel the whole production.”

Andrew agrees, “We’ve done our own re-imaginings of shows like Anything Goes and Sweet Charity that are our versions of it. I mean Dean and I are never going to be given a show and go, you have to do it this way, we would just never say yes to that. It’s not what I do, I’m about original choreography and a push towards an original or new version of a show.”

With discussions these days focussing on diversity and representation in casting, is it trickier casting a show?

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Dean says, “It’s not trickier, it’s an opportunity to actually grow. I’ve been doing it for years anyway because I worked at Melbourne Theatre Company as associate director for four years. I think the conversation maybe started a little earlier in the theatre world than the musical world and because I was part of that it seemed second nature to me, that your stages should look like your streets.”

Unusual Plot Device

Merrily, as it is affectionately known, is famous not only for it’s unusual plot device but also for the fact that it’s original Broadway run in 1981 only survived for 16 performances, with rotten reviews and the audience leaving in droves mid performance, on opening night!

It’s cheekily asked if either of these creatives have experienced that horror and thankfully they both laugh with Dean saying, “I feel like you always watch your shows with the sense of like, ‘oh god, how is this going’ and someone will go to the toilet and you’ll be like, ‘oh, they’ve left’ and they come back and you’re like ‘oh, it was just toilet’, so you’re always on edge. No matter how well the show is going, it never changes, maybe it even gets worse.”

Andrew adds, “But there’s more to lose when you start being more successful. Like for Dean and I after Anything Goes when people would call us a particular thing, like we were “The Team” and I hated that so much because it gave a pressure that was never ever a part of my mindset you know. We’re just doing what we do and we’re lucky that we found each other and that we work together so well because that’s the biggest thing, finding a team that you just connect with.”

For more details about ‘Merrily We Roll Along’ at The Hayes in Elizabeth Bay, check www.hayestheatre.com.au

 

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