Keneally urged to life game on Premieres

kristina keneally
Kristina Keneally

More Government support is the answer to solving the lack of theatrical premieres in Sydney, according to readers.

A website poll showed that 50 per cent of respondents believed more government support was the answer to solving the problem, ahead of building a new theatre (29.5 per cent) and education campaigns (10.7 per cent).

It is understood that Melbourne’s sudden surge in major musical premieres – including blockbusters such as Wicked, Jersey Boys and Mary Poppins – is the result of the Victorian Government’s major events department, which has made things attractive to theatre producers from both a financial and marketing perspective.

The pressure is now on New South Wales Premier Kristina Keneally (pictured) to boost support for major musicals, and encourage theatre producers to choose Sydney over Melbourne.

The Shadow Events Minister in NSW, George Souris, has already pushed Ms Keneally to change her thinking on major events.

“Sydney needs two things to happen in order attract these premieres,” Mr Souris said in an exclusive blog last month.

“Firstly, like the Victorian Government, the New South Wales Government needs to adopt a ‘whole of government’ approach towards major events. Secondly, the government needs to allocate more resources to Events NSW, with its current budget of twenty seven million dollars per annum being dwarfed by the sixty nine million dollar budget the Victorian Major Events Company has at its disposal.”

It is not the NSW Government’s commitment to the arts that is in question. There is little doubt that through Arts NSW, for example, the government supports hundreds of arts projects and companies.

The Government funds companies such as the Sydney Theatre Company, Griffin Theatre Company, Bell Shakespeare and the Darlinghurst Theatre Company, and is hugely responsible for the popular Sydney Festival.

Back in February, John O’Neill quit as Chairman of Events NSW. The decision will turn out to either be a bitter blow or the catalyst for turning things around.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported at the time: “His exit, on the cards since December, comes as his plan to exploit tourism opportunities and enrich the cultural landscape is beginning to take fuller flight. Instead, frustration about the government’s lack of infrastructure funds, compounded by power tussles behind the scenes, is believed to have forced his departure.”

It is understood that the Victorian Government’s major events budget is more than double that of the similar budget in NSW.

Theatre producer Rodney Rigby has already urged for a roundtable between producers, government officials and tourism chiefs to ensure that NSW competes on a major scale for big musical premieres.

Perhaps the over-riding factor in Melbourne securing major premieres is that the city refused to cave into ‘progress’ and maintained its heritage theatres. Sometimes the bells and whistles are not always the best way to go.

The next big theatrical premiere that could go Melbourne’s way is Love Never Dies, the sequel to the hugely popular Phantom Of The Opera. It is understood that a deal is all but done to bring the show to Melbourne mid-2011, but Sydney may still have a chance to steal the southern capital’s thunder.

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