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Something to Shout! about

It's not quite the real thing, but perhaps the closest you'll get to seeing the current production of Shout!, the stage musical about Australian rock icon Johnny O'Keefe, is to see the high-definition digital, surround-sound video version on the big screen at Brisbane's Cineplex cinemas. Reorded at Sydney's Lyric Theatre, it will play at the Balmoral, Victoria Point and South Bank complexes between May 15 and 21. Details are here. While I wish the exhibitors every success, I hope this sort of thing encourages people to love theatre so much that they want to see real, live actors perform at - say - a restored Regent Theatre.

An ill Wind?

Things don't look so bright for the musical version of Gone With the Wind, so London's Daily Telegraph's Dominic Cavendish has taken the opportunity to list his 10 worst musicals of all time. No. 1 is a show based on the Stephen King story Carrie and the list include lesser known works by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Lionel (Oliver!) Bart.

Something to sing about

First Jerry Springer, then Keating, now there are plans for an opera on the life of Anna Nicole Smith. Writer Richard Thomas says: "It's an incredible story. It's very operatic and sad. She was quite a smart lady with the tragic flaw that she could not seem to get through life without a vat of prescription painkillers." I wonder who they have in mind for the title role.

Way the wind blows

I suppose it was bound to happen. A musical version of Gone With the Wind is opening on the West End this week. Details here.
Meanwhile, a Spanish production of Peter Pan now showing in London is apparently so dire that Daily Telegraph reviewer Charles Spencer writes: "This is a show you must make the most strenuous endeavours to avoid."

Phantom agent

Andrew Lloyd Webber has confirmed he has written the music for a sequel to The Phantom of the Opera. Glenn Slater will write the lyrics for Phantom II, which will be set in New York's Coney Island around 1900. It's early days yet, but wouldn't it be fantastic if Anthony Warlow gets to perform the lead role on the West End or Broadway* - and that this time the Phantom gets the girl? Last year, Warlow told me: "... as much as Raoul's a lovely fellow, there's so much more that Erik could give her. People have said to me that they don't understand why she goes off with Raoul." Yes, apart from all the killing and the extortion, the Phantom's really a top bloke.
* That's not as far-fetched as it might seem. Producer John Frost told me that he is looking for a star vehicle to launch Warlow on the international stage. And, after Michael Crawford (who is now 66), Warlow is said to be Lord Lloyd-Webber's favourite Phantom.

Sideshow Mel

A Press Association story on various UK news websites currently refers to "The Producers, the Mel Smith musical". They have, of course, got the wrong Mel. It was American Mel Brooks who wrote The Producers. Mel Smith was the British star of Not the Nine O'Clock News and Alas Smith and Jones who went on to direct films including The Tall Guy and Bean.

Fabulous Phantom

The Phantom of the Opera has officially opened at the Lyric Theatre in Brisbane. I'm in Shanghai, and I wasn't there for the performance, so please forgive my ignorance if something unusual happened. If nothing unusual happened, and this production is still up to the standard of its opening night in Melbourne six months ago, it was a superb performance of a wonderful modern musical; Anthony Warlow exceeded expectations in a role that could have been written for him; and the show received a highly deserved, sustained standing ovation. Please tell me if I'm wrong.
PS: Here's my interview with Warlow for The Sunday Mail last year.
Anthony Warlow as Phantom from QPAC website

Schoolies rock on

According to Hollywood folklore, the first High School Musical telelmovie was originally to be titled Grease 3. Instead, the new Disney franchise is now getting its own second sequel. HSM 3 will be released in the US in October. Meanwhile, the stage version of the original High School Musical is doing the rounds, with productions in Brisbane (at Harvest Rain's Sydney St Theatre from January 24) and the Gold Coast (GC Arts Centre from January 25). Nothing succeeds like excess ...

Benny's no dancing king

ABBA songwriter Benny Andersson has revealed that he doesn't dance - except, perhaps, to the bank. Decades after the band split, ABBA still sells more than two million albums every year, and Andersson, 61, is producing a movie version of the stage musical Mamma Mia, which is almost certain to be a hit.
PS: Am I the only one who is having trouble telling Benny apart from songwriting partner Bjorn Ulvaeus now that the latter has also grown a beard?

Dirty Dancing cleans up

The musical Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story on Stage had big seasons in Australia and Germany, broke a record for pre-sales in London and is now going great guns in Toronto before hitting the US. All this is enormous news for Australia producer Kevin Jacobsen, who bet that global audiences would embrace a musical based on a cult hit film. There's more on the Canadian production here.

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