Electric Dreams: The Musical powers up for a premiere

Plug in your modem and get ready to boot up, because Electric Dreams: The Musical is back and better than ever.

After the success of a staged reading last year, Music Theatre Melbourne has developed the show into a full-scale production, with Roman Berry directing a new cast of talented Australian actors. A love-letter to the 80s, Electric Dreams: The Musical is a stage adaptation of the iconic 1984 film, telling the story of nerdy Miles and his mission to impress new neighbour Madeleine using the best technology money can buy – Edgar, his new sentient computer.

When asked about the changes, writer Drew Lane said “there’s new songs, new scenes, and the whole show has been tweaked and adjusted… there’s been a real focus on clarifying elements of the story line and developing characters so they are truly three-dimensional. It’s been such a collaborative process; between the cast, the director, and producers and everyone involved. If something hasn’t read or sung right, then the floor has been open for suggestions and adjustments.”

Angela Scundi and Madeleine Featherby

Having spoken to Drew last year about his writing process, it only felt right to chat with two of the cast members from the upcoming production of Electric Dreams – Madeleine Featherby (Paris: A Rock Odyssey, Follies, La Traviata) and Angela Scundi (Rocky Horror Show, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Tick Tick Boom) . Madeleine is returning to the production after originating the role of Madeleine at the reading last year, and Angela will be stepping into the role of the ever-so-modern Millie.

How has it been working on a new Australian musical?

Madeleine: Very exciting! I think it’s really important to support new Australian work. The performing arts industry is really tough, especially in Australia. Wherever there his a chance to support Australian writers and composers, I’d like to be part of that. With a new work, you don’t just get to perform a great show, but you also get to experience the journey that comes with the creation of that show. You also get to be part of something completely fresh – something that no one has seen before. There is a real opportunity to make your mark and put your own stamp on a character. There is something really special about being able to make a character truly your own.

Angela: I feel a heightened sense of pride and responsibility bringing a piece that’s both new and homegrown to life. We have a fabulous Director in Roman Berry who’s joy and enthusiasm knows no bounds. He is genuinely excited to explore every detail in Drew Lane’s book. To have that energy AND the writer in the room with you at every rehearsal is pretty special.

What has been the most interesting part of the collaborative process?

Madeleine: We’re so lucky to have such an open and approachable creative team. We’re encouraged to express our thoughts and ideas in relation to our characters and scenes. If something isn’t quite working for us, or we think we might be able to add some extra value in certain areas, we’re made to feel comfortable to do so. Being a collaborative process, we can also bounce ideas off an entire cast rather than just one or two people. Whenever we encounter a challenge or an obstacle, we have a whole team who feel comfortable to share their ideas and solutions, making the process truly collaborative. In order for this to work, however, the creative team has to be completely on board and allow for flexibility in the process. For example, Roman, our director, encourages us to make our own offers all the time and has given us complete freedom in our character choices and backgrounds. And Drew, the show’s writer and composer, often tells us that if we think we have a better way of doing or singing something, to do it. For lack of a better expression, they’re not ‘precious’ and that’s why the process works so well.

Angela: Definitely the open discussions and hearing/trialling everyone’s thoughts and suggestions. Rehearsal rooms are always a great space for play and discovery, however workshopping a new piece takes it to the next level.

Madeleine Featherby and Tom Green

Do you have anything in common with your character?

Madeleine: My name! But seriously, actually quite a lot! Madeline has a deep connection to music, which really resonates with me. From a very young age, I’ve always had a deep affiliation with music. As Madeline mentions in the show, her “mother used to play a lot of music around the house – everything from Bach, to Bing Crosby”. This line always makes me think of a real moment from my childhood when I would lie on the floor of the study with my Dad and we would listen to all kinds of music – everything from The Beatles to Operatic Arias ha!  For Madeline (the character, (I know the same name thing can get a little confusing!)), music has seen her through some difficult times in her life and it is the music, specifically her beloved cello, that gets her through. At the beginning of the show, Madeline is in a time of transition, moving cities after quite a bad break up. Without going too deep, I have certainly been in this situation in my life (almost exactly), but then again, who hasn’t!? There are parts of Madeline’s life, however, that marry up almost too well to my own. But this makes playing Madeline much more accessible as I can draw upon real emotion in certain moments of the show.

Angela: Millie is a glass- half- full kind of gal and we definitely have that in common. Realistic, but also positive and eager to move forward.

Madeleine, you were part of the staged reading last year – how has the show changed since then?

Madeleine: It’s great to see the constant development of the show. It’s come a long way from where it was a year ago and even now, during rehearsals, we are finding new meaning and nuance within the characters and scenes. A few of the roles have developed quite a lot since last year. My character, Madeline feels a lot stronger and more defined. The character of Millie, Madeline’s best friend, has probably developed the most. She is a much more prominent figure in Madeline’s life now and her character has a lot more depth. This is just an example of one of the many developments the show has seen. There has also been a number of changes to songs, new songs added, scenes altered or completely changed. Needless to say, if you saw the reading, don’t expect the same show by any means!

And how have you found working with a new cast?

Madeleine: As an actor, you’re used to working with new people all the time – jumping from show to show, cast to cast, and I love meeting new people and learning what I can from them. I always find it fascinating to observe other actors’ processes and the different ways in which they work. Having a new cast has been interesting because it can take the show to a whole new dimension. It’s interesting because sometimes a scene will be played completely differently to how it was originally played, and that’s purely because of a different cast. Sometimes I’ll think to myself, “Wow! I never thought about it that way”. We’ve got some amazing professional performers in this show, who have been working in this industry for a long time. They know their stuff!

Stephen Mahy and Angela Scundi

What does this show mean to you both?

Madeleine: I’ve been involved in bringing this show to life for a little over a year now. I’m incredibly lucky as I am the one who gets to personify the character of Madeline. There is something so special about that. Being involved with a show from the beginning is something actors don’t always get to experience and having Drew put his trust in me to, not only play the character, but also do his music justice really means a lot. And I must be doing something right because he still wanted me to perform the role after playing Madeline in the reading ha!

Angela: It means our industry is GROWING and that excites me to no end.

Why should audiences come and see Electric Dreams?

Madeleine: Again, Electric Dreams is a new Australian work, and it’s a show with all original music. The music is absolutely fantastic – and I promise I’m not just biased. Drew’s music is actually one of the main reasons I decided to join to the cast. It’s so catchy, melodic, fun and of course, bursting with 80s vibes. I absolutely love it! The story is cute, quirky, humorous and romantic. What more could you want?

Angela: It’s the ultimate museum piece! It is PACKED with uber-satisfying 80’s flavour musically and aesthetically with the right balance of cheese and wow factor. If you can’t resist belting out a power ballad in the car on your drive to work, you won’t be able to resist this show. Awesome content and big hair aside, it’s NEW Aussie work and let’s be honest much like our fruit and veg: it is wonderful to support anything that’s grown locally.

Electric Dreams: The Musical plays at the Gasworks Arts Park, Melbourne, from November 20-24. Tickets and more information are available at the Gasworks website.

Gabi Bergman

Gabi Bergman is a Melbourne-based performer and educator, and is the current Deputy Editor-in-Chief of AussieTheatre.com. She holds a Double Arts degree in Theatre Studies and Film/Screen Studies and a Master of Teaching (Secondary Education). Gabi has always been an avid lover of theatre, specifically musicals, and spends way too much money than she’d like to admit on tickets. Her most prized possession is her crate of theatre programs.

Gabi Bergman

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