SYDNEY — A regular summer fixture after three consecutive successful seasons in New York, the Euro-chic burlesque show Spiegelworld is branching out Down Under, setting up as a cultural festival next to the Australian Open in an attempt to merge sports and entertainment.
A carnival village will be set up on popular circus site the Oval, adjacent to the tennis headquarters of Melbourne’s Rod Laver Arena Jan. 19-Feb. 1, offering live entertainment to sports fans and non-sports fans alike.
An outdoor space dubbed Spiegelworld Garden will operate in conjunction with the Spiegelworld production, which will be programmed with a similar mix to the company’s New York lineups. The T&A-and-trapezes variety show “Absinthe” and family circus “Dislocate” will play side by side with Oz musicians in an entertainment-village setup.
Key to Spiegelworld is the fin de siecle-style traveling performance venue, Spiegeltent, with its 10-foot stage surrounded by 300 seats and air-conditioned to offset Melbourne’s often-searing January temperatures.
Oz debut will be a homecoming for Aussie Spiegelworld founder Ross Mollison, whose foray into showbiz began with praisery Mollison Communications, headquartered in Melbourne but which he now runs from New York.
“Melbourne is the best city in the world to host a sporting event that also mixes a cultural element because the sports facility is located right in the heart of the city,” Mollison tells Variety. “We’re taking fantastic acrobats, comedians and variety artists onto the stage in a program that has Australian music elements alongside the international acts we’ve featured in New York.”
At Mollison’s urging, Tennis Australia has embraced Spiegelworld in a bid to expand the Aussie Open beyond being a mere sporting event. But the move may face a challenge to find an audience in a territory already exposed to the concept.
Since 2001, another Melbourne impresario, David Bates, has set up and programmed the Spiegeltent on the city’s Arts Center forecourt, commencing each year with the Melbourne Intl. Arts Festival in October and offering programming through Christmas.
In 2007, Bates’ Spiegeltent also became a fixture of the annual Sydney Festival in January. Now Bates has doubled his footprint in Oz at the same time Mollison is heading home. The Sydney Opera House has booked Bates’ Spiegeltent operation on its forecourt during October and November.
Due to this additional engagement, Bates this year hired a second Spiegeltent from Europe for the Melbourne season. Now with two tents, he’s considering a return season in Melbourne during January, concurrent with the Sydney Festival season.
While the direct-from-New York cachet of Mollison’s enterprise doubtless will give it a strong marketing hook, competing tents will provide an interesting test to see just how much Spiegel one town can handle.