5 Things I Learned About Australian Theater

I’m writing this blog on my last night in picturesque Sydney, Australia. I fly back tomorrow.  And somehow I’ll arrive earlier than when I left.  So weird.  I mean, I get why that happens, but I’ll just never get over how bizarro-world it is.

Anywho . . .

I had an awesome time in Australia, and as I always do when I travel to foreign lands, I tried to pick up a few of its theatrical uniqueness so we could all learn from them.

Here’s what I found out:

1.  There are two Broadways in Australia.

In the US, we’ve got one Broadway.  In Australia, two cities have similar sized commercial theater industries.  You’ve got your Sydney.  And you’ve got your Melbourne.  They’re only separated by an hour flight, but both put on the big shows. And from what I gather there seems to be a friendly rivalry between which city does drama better.  Both cities aren’t big enough nor do they have the influx of tourists to support super long runs like we do, but I wondered what it would be like if Boston was almost as robust as Broadway.

2.  Chat Boards?  What Chat Boards?

The fans I spoke to said the chat board community doesn’t exist in Australia like it does in the states, so shows can go about their business without online pot shots.  Of course, the people I spoke to all read the NY chat sites, so . . .

3.  Got a star and a musical? Give me a few weeks.

Here’s something that just doesn’t exist in NYC . . . it’s the limited-run star-driven revival . . . of a musical!  For example . . . Geoffrey Rush just did a dozen or so weeks in Forum.  Our economics haven’t allowed for such a thing . . . yet. (Note to self:  Call FAMOUS AUTHOR to discuss a limited run star driven revival of his musical because this one could work).

4.  When your theater is a tourist attraction, you’ll sell tickets.

My First Time is playing at the Sydney Opera House, along with a bunch of other shows in its many venues.  Well, guess what one of the top things to do is in Sydney?  Duh, it’s “see the opera house.”  Tourists are drawn to the venue like I am to bacon.  So, the venue becomes a lead generating machine, bringing you possible ticket buyers by the ferry boat full.

5.  It could be the new Chicago.

Audiences speak English.  Creatives love to stay there.  It’s cheaper.  It’s no wonder in the past several years, a whole bunch of new musicals have been born in the Bush.  Boy from Oz, Priscilla, Officer and a Gentleman, Dr. Zhivago, and the upcoming King Kong and Strictly Ballroom are just a few of the shows that began their lives in Aussie Land.  I’m predicting we’ll see several more start here over the next decade.  I know I want to bring a show to town.

6.  BONUS:  Everyone is a mate.

They call you mate here, all the time.  And why sure, that’s just the local jargon, but for me it typifies this bonus theatrical trait.  Ready for it?  Here goes . . . the theater people are just nice.  Super nice.  They love what they do.  They love where they live.  And they love welcoming people to their land.  I’ve never felt so at home in a foreign country, so thanks Aussies.  I’ll be back soon.


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Ken created one of the first Broadway podcasts, recording over 250 episodes over 7 years. It features interviews with A-listers in the theater about how they “made it”, including 2 Pulitzer Prize Winners, 7 Academy Award Winners and 76 Tony Award winners. Notable guests include Pasek & Paul, Kenny Leon, Lynn Ahrens and more.