Shaun Rennie on directing Irene

Neglected Musicals have been bringing Sydney some lesser-known shows for the last few years, but their current show is extra special to director Shaun Rennie. With script in hand, the performers have had a single day of rehearsals to present a jazzed-up stage reading, complete with costumes, sets, and props.

Shaun Rennie

“Like many of us, my love affair with theatre started with my local amateur theatre company, the Bankstown Theatrical Society (BTS). It was the early 90’s and I went along to see my singing teacher star in a production of West Side Story. I knew the minute the lights went down that I was instantly hooked. I still remember what the program for that production looked like, I studied it so hard. Unconsciously, that night I had found the art form that I would spend the rest of my life working in.”

Shaun has established himself as a formidable director, with recent credits including The Rise and Fall of Little Voice (Darlinghurst Theatre Company), Jess and Joe Forever (Belvoir), Trevor (Outhouse Theatre Company), and Baby Doll (Ensemble Theatre Company).

“I quickly joined the B.T.S. and following an illustrious stage debut in their production of Brigadoon, the second ever show that I worked on was the effortlessly charming classic musical comedy, IRENE. I was a 14-year-old kid, singing and dancing on top of pianos, infatuated with the leading lady and in awe of the hilarious, generous, camp adults I now got to spend two nights a week with. Not only had I found my life’s passion, I had found my tribe… Theatre Folk!”

“IRENE is a joyful, classic show about a girl from the wrong side of the tracks falling in love with the wealthy boy across town. A trope that was all too common, I know… but nonetheless with a score that boasts some of the best-known standards in popular culture You Made Me Love You and Alice Blue Gown.”

Stephanie Caccamo | Photo by Noni Carroll

The show opened on Broadway in 1919, and ran for 675 performances, which at the time set the record for longest running musical in Broadway history, and held this title for almost two decades. Irene was revived in 1923, filmed twice, and had a second major revival in 1973 starring Debbie Reynolds.

“Julie Anthony starred in both the Australian and West End productions in the mid-1970s. Her success in that production is a memorable part of Australian theatrical history. I am honoured to be working with such a brilliant cast of established and emerging actors all  led by the incredibly talented Stefanie Caccamo in the titular role, and with the first lady of Australian Musical Theatre, Nancye Hayes, playing the indomitable Mrs O’Dare.”

This season marks Neglected Musical’s 10th year bringing forgotten favourites to the Sydney theatre scene. Stephanie Caccamo is returning to the company after playing Eve Harrington in Applause, and Nancye Hayes returns to the show after being part of a 1975 production (in the role of Jane).

“I am thrilled to be revisiting a show that played such a huge part of my early love affair with theatre. It’s my hope that the experience gives audiences the same sense of joy and wonder that I felt as a 14 year kid, dancing on top of that piano, trying desperately to do an Irish accent… I still can’t.”

Irene opens today, and plays for a strictly limited season to Saturday at Hayes Theatre, Sydney.

Tickets and more information are available at the Neglected Musicials website.


Gabi Bergman

Gabi Bergman is a Melbourne-based performer and educator, and is the current Deputy Editor-in-Chief of 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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