Mastering the musical theatre universe: a new musical about Einstein

In a political climate where the two most creative industries of our country are being slashed and defunded, a new musical in Melbourne has united the worlds of the arts and sciences to bring us a “prodigiously gifted” new musical.

Einstein: Master of the Universe has been playing at TheatreWorks in Melbourne since 30 June, reviving Albert Einstein’s life through song. The show boasts an original score, a young creative team, and the coming together of many artistic mediums (including gaming and animation) to create new content. Dan Czech, director, believes this type of amalgamation of creative output is important to the future of the musical theatre industry.

Daniel Czech, director.
Daniel Czech, director.

“Working with a team of young people to create a show like this has been incredible in many ways. What I find wonderful is the deep care for the work and vibrant enthusiasm of people who are at the beginning of their professional careers, and eager to make their mark as artists.

“I’ve found, in many of those working on this show, an insatiable appetite to create a work that astounds and challenges an audience, rather than one that merely pleases and comforts them. I admire these qualities very much.”

Becoming involved with the show after seeing a rehearsed reading at the Victorian College of the Arts in 2014, Czech has relished the opportunity to work with people representing a wide variety of creative mediums. He believes that there is a mutual benefit in supporting other artists and art forms when creating new and original work.

“[…] It goes beyond just supporting one another. I think that it’s immensely exciting to collaborate with people from a diverse range of artistic disciplines when you’re making work. Such collaborations have the potential to enhance the work you make, and your experience of making work.”

Inviting audiences into the little-known personal life of Albert Einstein, Jess Newman, writer of the show, says that “Einstein’s ideas and emotional life are too large to be set only to words.” Master of the Universe uses the talents of twelve actors and eight musicians to tell his story, and has largely been constructed using “new media” techniques.

When asked about the possible relationship between the creative elements of musical theatre and the creative elements of the scientific subject material, Czech drew a parallel between the industries’ ultimate objective and their need to constantly reinvent, discover and adapt.

“In terms of similarities between musical theatre and science, the creation and innovation that takes places in both of these industries is aimed at one ultimate goal; finding truth. Any piece of art or scientific effort seeks to reveal truths about humanity and the world that had not been apparent to us before such endeavours were undertaken. Science and musical theatre are united by a mutual search for truth.”

“[…] In the show the lifeblood of Einstein’s fame is his science, if he does not keep creating new theories and making new discoveries then the global media sees him as becoming stagnant and obsolete. Thus, within the story of the show itself, a physicist cannot thrive without continuing to make discoveries through which they innovate their industry.”

Einstein: Master of the Universe. Photography by Ben Fon.
Einstein: Master of the Universe. Photography by Ben Fon.

Czech mentioned that finding balance between creating and living had been difficult for many of those involved in Einstein, because there is not a cultural priority to support Australia’s artists and their new works. He said that there have been many people willing to support the project, but that more resources are needed if our country wants to be productive in creating new material.

“It’s difficult for young people to balance making new work (which many do for free) with bringing in money to live on, while also trying to improve their craft and audition for other projects. Sometimes it can be hard to balance the varying availabilities of cast and creatives in a way that allows adequate rehearsal time or planning time to be given to all the different aspects of a show. However, this is a completely understandable difficulty given the challenging living circumstances many young artists face today.”

“[…] There are many talented artists (young and old) who are being suffocated of resources to make their work right now. I think this is depriving Australia of some great works that, as a nation, we would feel proud of if we committed to properly financing them.”

Albert Einstein’s influence on scientific theory is still evident in the world around us today, and Czech hopes that Master of the Universe will enjoy similar longevity. Recently chosen as one of six shows to participate in Homegrown’s Grass Roots Initiative, Czech hopes that with support and constructive criticism, the show will continue to develop and strengthen.

“So far [audience] responses have been wonderfully generous and positive, and also informatively constructive. People have been really supportive of this as a first production of a new musical, and to find so much enthusiasm for the show has been really heartening.”

“The sky is the limit [for Master of the Universe]. We would love this show to be an international success. That may sound foolishly hopeful to some, but what’s the point of dreaming if you don’t let yourself dream large?”

Einstein: Master of the Universe will continue performances through 10 July. Ticketing information can be found at this link.



Maddi Ostapiw

Maddi is a performer who has been too scared to stand in the spotlight for the last few years, so she channels her need for love and appreciation into writing about the theatre instead. An energetic consumer of musical theatre, she is currently earning a degree in journalism and teaches voice in her small hometown. Maddi is normally covered in cat fur, has an opinion on everything, and in the words of Lin-Manuel Miranda, is not throwing away her shot.

Maddi Ostapiw

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