Australian step goes Red | 7NEWS
Australian theater producer Carmen Pavlovic has had 18 months more complicated than most.
After Moulin Rouge’s Broadway debut! The Musical in July 2019, the CEO and co-owner of Sydney-based Global Creatures and her team enjoyed a wave of commercial and critical success.
Their high-octane theatrical transformation from Baz Luhrmann’s 2001 film broke house records and had been hailed by influential New York Times theater critic Ben Brantley, among others.
The first show to have seen the light of day on Broadway with an Australian production company, plans were underway to open Moulin Rouge! in London and Melbourne.
Then the world started to sort out the compliments of COVID-19.
“I describe myself as a better leader in wartime than in peacetime,” Pavlovic says from his Bondi home.
“I get pretty pragmatic in a drama, and in March of last year there was no time for emotion, we just had to react and shut everything down.”
Tickets were to go on sale for the West End production of the Moulin Rouge! The musical and auditions were to come. Back in Australia, the Melbourne production was also preparing to audition candidates.
Further afield, other Global Creatures productions were active, with the creative teams of King Kong and Muriel’s Wedding The Musical set to undertake workshops in China and New York, respectively.
“My immediate thought was to reunite people with their families because I feared the borders would start to close,” Pavlovic said. “We made sure everyone had money to pay their bills and access medical care.”
Pavlovic felt she was cautious in crafting a lockdown plan that extended until the end of June 2020.
“Everyone was talking about a few weeks, but I was conservative,” she laughs. “I don’t need to tell you what happened from there.
The Melbourne auditions were eventually pushed back to January and February of this year.
“We had spent the whole of 2020 with one foot on the brake and the other on (the accelerator),” Pavlovic explains.
“My business partner (and president), Gerry Ryan, and I felt it was risky to confirm production, but we wanted to do it for the industry. We want to be part of the theater regeneration and create jobs. “
Without a doubt, their decision was informed by the news last October that Moulin Rouge! The musical had been nominated for 14 Tony Awards, just behind Jagged Little Pill’s 15 nods.
Another outbreak of COVID at the hearings signified another rapidly changing set of variables.
“It was hard, but working on Moulin Rouge! has that revolutionary side, ”she says. “The troops are galvanized and we are determined to deliver the show.”
One of these troupes is performer Alinta Chidzey, who plays Satine, the dancer and courtesan immortalized by Nicole Kidman in the film.
When Chidzey auditioned earlier this year, she was 37 weeks pregnant with her first child.
“The hearing was tough but fair – fair – manageable,” Chidzey said during a break from COVID-safe rehearsals.
“Alinta was in those high heels and was doing all the choreography,” Pavlovic recalls. “We offered him the role two weeks later. I told him, ‘I’ll never assume there’s something you can’t do, but please don’t try to be a superwoman ‘. “
“Carmen made me feel very comfortable going into this field,” says Chidzey. “People have doubts, especially for their first child, about how to juggle, but with the fundamentals in place, it is possible.”
Her daughter is now 15 weeks old. “Harley is already experiencing the theater vibe on tour,” chidzey laughs.
When released 20 years ago, Luhrmann’s film electrified audiences and won two Oscars for set decorating and costume design, accolades that production designer Catherine Martin shared with Brigitte Broch and Angus Strathie.
Pavlovic remembers falling for the Moulin Rouge! the first time she saw it.
“It’s the only movie I’ve been to see twice,” she said.
“I was heartbroken at the time, which I remember well. I found the film uplifting, inspiring and hopeful, and it’s not a feeling I have forgotten.”
In 2009, she started a conversation with Luhrmann and Martin about obtaining the stage rights.
“And then it took until 2016 to negotiate those rights because the film had four underlying rights holders,” says Pavlovic.
“It’s probably the most complicated musical, from a rights perspective, to ever be on Broadway.”
Directed by Alex Timbers with a book by Tony Award-winning John Logan, musical supervision, orchestrations and arrangements by Justin Levine, and choreography by Sonya Tayeh, the jukebox musical is more of a reimagination than a faithful adaptation.
Significantly, the score has been updated with a host of recent pop hits to attract a new generation of audiences. The cast of 34 moves through a score of 75 songs, representing the work of 165 songwriters over 160 years.
Satine and company still sing Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend, but they also add Beyonce’s Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It). Meanwhile, cabaret impresario Harold Zidler and others sing Sia’s blazing luster.
“Some iconic songs were a must-have and then we added some new concert music with John developing the book,” Pavlovic said, confirming Lady Marmalade remains on the series.
With the long-delayed Tony Awards confirmed for September 26, will Pavlovic try to make it to New York?
“I would love to be a part of that moment when Broadway comes back,” she said.
“Our Broadway production is set to resume performances on September 24, but that moment is more important than any show. I had my first shot and I’m getting my second in August, so if I can, then I ‘I am able to do it. “
A bright side of the past 18 months of chaos is that the vicissitudes of COVID have seen Melbourne overtake London by several months and become the first international production to open after Broadway.
“The movie started here, so it’s a nice full circle,” Pavlovic said.
“It’s been an incredibly difficult 18 months, but we’ve managed to keep a lot of people in employment. I’m very proud of the Moulin Rouge! I think it’s a total blast.”
For her part, Chidzey is feeling lucky, not least because Melbourne is her hometown, which will make the season more manageable, especially with a baby.
“A night at the theater is a great way to remind ourselves that we need the arts – we need that feeling of connection and celebration of life.”
Red Mill! The musical is playing at the Regent Theater in Melbourne from August 13, 2021.