When did our love affair with Australia start? Certainly the movie industry
had something to do with it with releases like Crocodile Dundee. Then
came releases from the film industry in Australia, with a surprise penetration
of the Oscars with Shine. Then came a new era of special effects with
Matrix. Australian actor, Mel Gibson, has a top ranking with the American
public. Presently, there are over one hundred book titles pertaining
to Australia planned for release in late 2002 and beyond (see listing
Several books have achieved best-selling status, such as, In a Sunburned
Country, The Road From Coorain, Dirt Music, Batavia's Graveyard, Dingoes
at Dinnertime. There are 309 popular music titles, numerous gifts (such
as popular clothing items like the "convertible" pants), restaurants
(Outback), and other products (Subaru's Outback car) captivating the
American public about Australia. In 2000, the Omaha zoo brought in the
Koala Bears - a hit display attracting an estimated increase of 10 to
15 percent in zoo visitation.
Articles pertaining to people in Australia are regularly included in
the USA edition of Reader's Digest, e.g. Animal Attraction, Feb. 2002,
and The Long Walk Home, July 2002, among others. The movie, Crocodile
Hunter will be released in two weeks. Of course, the Olympics held in
Sydney as the new millennium location, added to our already deepened
interest. Tourism to Australia is at an all time high.
But most of all, it is our commonality. The settlers of Australia were
the same folks that settled America. We share a common language, and
large continental expanses of land. America also had penal colonies
set up from England, but we soon became independent enough to refuse
a continuance of the practice. Both of our countries had a native, indigenous
population. Our development of interest in Native Americans and their
culture, parallels the Auzzie's interest in their Native Australians,
the Aborigines. We endured the same type of hardships - people searching
for freedom and a new way of life.
Our coverage of terrorism on the popular program Nightline, took a break
to cover and empathize with the wildfires of Australia.
The musical AUSTRALIA! is multi-leveled. It deals with historical fact
- in terms of being educational. It has the emotional impact of a love
story. It has the charm necessary for a child audience, but most of
all - it deals with patriotism. What is patriotism and how does it develop?
The children of Henry and Jenny are the ones who tell this story of
loyalty by explaining to their parents that Australia is, "our
country, our land, - where we were born." The American commonality
that is shared with Australia could result in the musical becoming a
Several news reports came out this year regarding the crisis of musical
theater in regard to new work. Old musicals are being revived because
there isn't enough new work being released. Andrew Lloyd Weber toured
colleges and universities two years ago to encourage new play writes.
Virtually nobody has stepped forth.
Musically, there is a broadening interest in global treatments. African
rhythms, folk instruments, and unusual electronic sounds are being embraced.
The musical Lion King incorporates dozens of percussion instruments.
The sound score for AUSTRALIA! is original and, according to listeners,
is intriguing and captivating. The musical Australia! employs the old
with the new, an interesting mix that will be considered new and innovative.
The first half of the production is done in a traditional order of music
and dance - a Gilbert and Sulliven or Guys and Dolls type of approach.
The second half takes a departure into the Outback and its mystique
- the "upside down world" of marsupial animals and bears in
trees. Although the story, with its animals, will be very interesting
to children, it presents a more thought provoking picture to adults.
There is an underlying tension between nature, the Aborigine and the
onslaught of western man. Lohr builds on the mystique of the dream time
by incorporating a dream episode at the production's climax. Special
effects are achieved through lighting, dance and music. The bright orange
landscape that supports the faded green salt brush is unbelievable -
a thousand miles without even one tree.
The cost of this production relative to other Broadway bound musicals,
is low. This is because the set designs involve lighting as the primary
theatrical emphasis. There is an atmosphere that establishes a sense
of place achieved through light, movement, and smell (eucalyptus). The
subject matter offers opportunities to involve businesses who are not
normally contacted for sponsorship, such as Quantas Airlines, and the
Outback chain of restaurants. There is the opportunity to recoup costs
through sales of merchandise. The musical, Lion King, has a regular
store of goodies that can be purchased from stuffed toys to clothing.
The subject matter of Australia also offers this opportunity.