Stars to shine in Sydney

Davis, Blanchett among celebs on STC slate

SYDNEY — Cate Blanchett is set to headline Sydney Theater Co.’s revival of “Hedda Gabler,” her first Aussie stage role since 1997 and a highlight of the company’s 25th-anni season in 2004.

Adapted by Blanchett’s scribe husband, Andrew Upton, and directed by company topper Robyn Nevin, “Gabler” will run for two months starting July 27.

Judy Davis last trod the STC’s boards in 1986 in the same role. Next April she’ll step out with husband Colin Friels, Marta Dusseldorp and John Gaden in Howard Barker’s English restoration epic “Victory,” which she will co-direct with emerging helmer Benjamin Winspear.

Both shows will bow in the STC’s 320-seat Wharf Theater — not the company’s new 850-seat Sydney Theater, which opens Jan. 10 with two world premiere productions featuring the company’s new nine-member ensemble:

  • Jonathan Biggins will direct “The Republic of Myopia,” a musical farce created by the STC’s popular Wharf Revue team of Biggins, Drew Forsythe and Phillip Scott. Nevin will direct Katherine Thompson’s “Harbour,” a family drama set against the backdrop of the hard-fought maritime union dispute of 1998, which took place near the site of the new theater.

  • Tony McNamara, who recently debuted as a film helmer with “The Rage in Placid Lake,” returns to legit with a new script about the meaning of modern life: “The Unlikely Prospect of Happiness.” Pia Miranda will star for director Jeremy Sims.

Australia’s best-known playwright, David Williamson, will have two new works in 2004. In April, STC preems “Amigos,” a drama about the reunion of a former champion rowing crew, featuring Tony Llewellyn-Jones and Garry McDonald and directed by Jennifer Flowers. In June the Ensemble Theater on Sydney’s North Shore will mount “Flatfoot,” a Roman comedy of bad manners, directed by STC’s Biggins, starring Forsythe and Tina Bursill.

For Company B’s 20th-anni season, topper Neil Armfield has programmed autobiographical solo works from black Australians David Gulpilil, David Page and Noel Tovey. Nigel Jamieson will helm the world preem of his “In Our Name,” which explores Australia’s flash-point immigration issues. Armfield will direct Melissa Reeves’ whimsical new comedy “The Spook,” about a government spy in the small town of Bendigo. Tom Long (“The Dish”) will star.

Long, with Kim Gyngell, also will headline Melbourne Theater Co.’s world preem of Matt Cameron’s “Hinterland.”

MTC’s lineup includes the world preem of “The Sapphires,” from thesp-turned-scribe Tony Briggs. The play, about a sister act that entertained the troops in Vietnam in 1969, is not yet cast. In April, artistic director Simon Phillips will direct the Aussie preem of Greg Kotis’ and Mark Hollmann’s Tony-winning tuner “Urinetown,” headlined by Shane Bourne, Rhonda Burchmore, Lisa McCune and Christen O’Leary.

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