Its legacy is the gap we now have

It’s been almost a year since the national musical theatre company Kookaburra collapsed, taking with it not only the dreams of Peter Cousens, but a part of the industry that whilst only around for a short while, has left the theatre industry a massive gap to fill.

2009 has been an interesting year in theatre. The first without Kookaburra in a couple of years, it has somewhat had an empty feeling.

That is because Kookaburra, all dramas aside, has not been producing theatre.

After all, if it had not been for Kookaburra, we would have missed out on the stunning production of Little Women, or the delightful Tell Me On A Sunday. We wouldn’t have seen the all-star cast line-up for Company, and we would have missed the other Kookaburra initiatives along the way.

For all the negatives attached with the company, the positives are certainly missed.

So do I dare, less than 12 months after Kookaburra’s collapse, suggest that a national musical theatre company is something we need? No, I can’t go that far, but Kookaburra surely left a gap in the market, even if its end result was ‘failure’ for want of a much better word.

The Sydney Theatre Company’s presentation of Spring Awakening early next year is a massive thumbs up for an industry that needs those type of shows to be produced. The blockbuster musicals are fine, but the grungy, boutique musicals also need an outlet.

There is surely an avenue for more of these musicals to be produced. When Kookaburra collapsed, the one thing we seemed to all forget about is what happens to the three shows that would have been produced each year. Is there simply no audience for them, or are we transferring the audience elsewhere? Even worse, are we just forgetting those audiences?

We seem to have the big budget commercial musicals pretty well covered at the moment, with the right shows winning over audiences. Straight theatre is doing a solid job through the various theatre companies, but what of the medium-sized musical that Kookaburra championed?

Is there a company out there willing to put its hand up and produce two or three of these musicals each year?

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