Thursday, October 14, 2010

Britney Spears: The Cabaret- INTERVIEWS

Toxic Tale

Everyone loves a fall from grace. Cue Britney Spears.  According to Melbourne based Writer and Director Dean Bryant the once upon a time Queen of Pop Pulp with an uplifting back catalogue and her vast array of human foibles is the perfect biography for “a jukebox musical. “
Bryant is one part of the two parts well known in musical theatre circles as Bryant & Frank . His journey from Numurkah High to off Broadway has a distinctive The Boy from Oz ring to it, and with a modest slew of successful stage shows and two Green Room Awards to his credit,  Bryant is  busy working on Broadway, finalizing the casting for the Canadian and New York seasons of Priscilla: The Musical.
It is while discussing the difficulty in procuring a decent cafe latte in Manhattan ,  the joys of casting an eight-year old for the Priscilla spectacular and his new jukebox musical script about to open in Melbourne that he fondly remembers a favourite teacher, “ My high school drama teacher was a primary influence on my writing.  “ She was into doing musicals well and we got to do the cool ones.  I loved Evita and Miss Saigon and all those musicals that came out on audio cassette then. Gradually I moved up to Sondheim and new work while study acting at Perth’s WAAPA, shows like How To Succeed In Business without Really Trying;  that script is so tight, so well written!”
It was at WAAPA where Dean Bryant met fellow student, and long term Musical Director collaborator,  Matthew Frank.
 “ The personal connection was easy. We started going out two days after we met.  He was already a composer, and I adored his music. He had moved on from his writing partner, and in a fit of desperation asked if I’d give it a go.  I think I’d written a poem for the local newspaper when I was eight.  Matty wasn’t overly hopeful but then we locked onto a good idea – update the prodigal son parable to Sydney, imagine the son fled his country family because he’s gay.  We work shopped it at WAAPA in our final year,  staged it at Chapel off Chapel in January. Prodigal was picked up by producers, won a Green Room Award and went to off-Broadway two years later. “
,“It seemed like we probably should keep writing together,” Bryant continues.”  We have a great work vibe– fed by our personal relationship – we don’t have to schedule particular work time because we can have ideas at any time of day or night.  We also love the same type of theatre, can direct and music direct, are both trained actors and singers.  And he’s funny too.”
This year the pair added a second Green Room Award to their mix for Once We Lived Here.  A story loosely based on Bryant’s own biography .
“I started writing it nearly a decade ago straight after Prodigal. My mum’s mum died when she was 14,  she became the surrogate mum to her siblings, they lived on a sprawling farm in bushfire territory.  It fascinated me, and the story grew from there.  It took forever to get it on, but was a blessing in disguise because the show became what it needed to be over this very long germination.  The music was inspired by a need to find a “country” way of singing that wasn’t really country music – kind of folksy.   “
“Britney?”,  replies this writer with a laugh, poised in perfect pitch mode, “ the jump off is that Britney has decided to get back to her roots by stripping back her songs to just piano, talking about her life. She’s taken a lesson  the cabaret greats – Liza Minnelli, Patti Lupone, Bernadette Peters and tells her story in the cabaret form.  It starts out riotous, as she can be both vacant and canny. Things go wrong, and you begin to understand what it must be like to be at the eye of a ridiculous media storm and really be just a silly, funny, sad 27 year- old girl. “
He adds that the Britney script evolved out our collective fascination for confession, “ I use the skills that we’d learned over years of developing entirely original musicals and applied it instead to the cabaret jukebox musical genre – taking existing songs  and treating them as if you’d written them yourself .
“ I’d honed these skills helping shape the ultimate jukebox musical Priscilla. The interesting dynamic of the show is the sending up of cabaret confessional that audiences love– I met this boy,  then I did this in my life and my mum said this and so forth- and applying it to the most famous girl in the world, as if she’s just any other girl.  I mean, it would never happen would it Britney chatting one on one to one hundred people in a cabaret setting, so it’s delightful to go with this fantasy.”
 “ For me the idea is that we are just as responsible for Britney’s downfall as she is: we are desperate to make and break our celebs,  we live vicariously through them, then destroy them at our whim and never, ever even think,’What if I was going through that myself? ‘
“ I once read that Britney is the perfect celeb for our times – she is an empty vessel that will represent whatever anyone wants her to – but I think she’s bucking pretty hard against that right now."


Venue: The Loft, Chapel Off Chapel | 12 Little Chapel St, Prahran
Dates: October 6 - 24, 2010
Times: Wednesday to Sunday at 7.30pm
Tickets: $35 Full, $30 Concession (+ Transaction Fee)
Bookings: (03) 8290 7000 |

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