SYDNEY — There’s nothing like an open casting call to generate pre-publicity for a musical.
Sydney set that scene the weekend of May 20, when the producers of “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” asked drag performers to audition for 16 chorus roles in the tuner-in-development based on the hit 1994 Aussie pic “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.”
Dozens turned out at the Bangarra Theater, and there were almost as many media reps there to capture their every sashay.
That weekend, it was much the same across town at the significantly bigger Sydney Entertainment Center, which will host the preem of a souped-up new “Boy From Oz” arena show starting here in August with Hugh Jackman.
Auditions for a boy between the ages of 8 and 12 to play Peter Allen as a child attracted dozens, as it had the previous week in Melbourne.
The specifics of Allen’s career drew a blank with some of the boys auditioning, but others claimed to be inspired by his showbiz career.
“He was a young boy from a country town and he just wanted more — he wanted his name in lights,” 12-year-old Matthew Jenson told the Sun-Herald newspaper. “That’s what I want, too.”
Producer Ben Gannon was on hand to tell the media “Boy” will be the most expensive musical ever staged in Australia, but Jackman, who reportedly will earn A$250,000 ($190,000) each perf of the two-month tour, is worth every cent.
According to Gannon, ticket sales ($75-$190) are strong, with new shows recently announced, but “Boy” will need to recoup $15.5 million to break even.
“There hasn’t been any musical that would have spent $7.5 million on the production, and that’s not the touring cost,” Gannon told the press. “The touring costs are $8 million, so it’s $15.5 million all up. You need to sell a lot of tickets.”
It’s the first time Gannon has revealed the massive budget behind the show, which will have a short run because of Jackman’s Hollywood commitments.
And after eye-balling the success of the Oz preem of “Dirty Dancing,” which has spawned German and British productions, and “Dusty,” which is contemplating a West End run after its Oz tour, Aussie investors are showing more interest in the genre.
The Dusty Springfield songbook biotuner “Dusty,” which preemed in Melbourne five months ago and is about to wrap a 10-week Sydney season, has been playing to average houses of “high 70%” capacity, says producer Dennis Smith.
Smith says the climate Down Under right now is very good for tuners. A new Titanic musical is due to launch in Sydney this October, and Judy Garland bioplay “End of the Rainbow,” starring Caroline O’Connor, is enjoying a return season at the Theater Royal.