Oz sprouts pair of homegrown musicals

Fall to see 'Time of My Life,' 'Eureka' preems

MELBOURNE — Two original tuners are readying for October preems Down Under — the first for four years.

Jacobsen Entertainment, backer of the successful Johnny O’Keefe biotuner “Shout!,” is poised to announce a new musical based on 1987 hit movie “Dirty Dancing.”

Auditions for “Time of My Life,” which lifts its title from “Dirty Dancing’s” hit song, were held in Melbourne and Sydney in April.

According to casting call advertisements, Eleanor Bergstein, writer and co-producer of the original film starring Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey, hosted the auditions.

Jacobsen Entertainment is a publicly listed company that recently signed a co-venture with Miami-based rock promoter Jack Utsick Prods.

Michael Jacobsen told Variety he will announce details of the show shortly, but according to industry sources, a Sydney premiere in October is planned.

That same month in Melbourne, Simon Gallaher, a performer who first garnered acclaim in the hit 1984 production of “The Pirates of Penzance,” will produce “Eureka.” The romantic musical features an original score and an original, part-fact, part-fiction story that has been in development for 20 years.

It was conceived by Maggie May Gordon but created by songwriter Michael Harvey and will mark his mainstage debut. Harvey approached director Gale Edwards, who has been rewriting the script since October.

Rachel Beck and Ian Stenlake, who played the leads in recent Sydney workshops, are tipped to star, though this is not confirmed.

The A$5.4 million ($3.9 million) production is fully funded by what Gallaher describes as “a couple of wealthy businessmen, who were enthusiastic about the idea and what they’d seen in the workshops.”

New Australian musicals are rare. “Shout!” and “The Boy From Oz” are the only exceptions in the last decade. Both tapped a catalog pf hit tunes, while “Eureka” is entirely original.

“It’s very ambitious,” Gallaher concedes. “You’re almost treading on ground where people have not dared to tread, or attempted and failed.”

Unlike tuners pulling auds in Oz — “The Lion King,” “We Will Rock You,” “Mamma Mia!” and “The Producers” — “Eureka” will traverse some serious territory.

Its story is set during the Eureka Stockade, a bloody uprising by Irish gold miners against British officialdom that took place in Ballarat, near Melbourne, 150 years ago.

“Like Gallipoli, it was an unmitigated disaster in Australian history,” Gallaher says. It will be the first time the story has been used as the basis for a musical.

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