New Aussie musical set to inspire kids

Hundreds of Brisbane children are set to flock to the Judith Wright Centre next month to sink their teeth into the delectable new Australian musical Wombat Stew.

Adapted from the 1984 classic children’s book and featuring a kooky cast of characters from the Australian outback, Wombat Stew tells the simple story of a cheeky dingo who tries to turn a naïve wombat into a big bubbling wombat stew.

“I thought it was a chance to create a very Australian piece, one that would look and sound familiar to the kids and their mums and dads, and give it a sense of humour that is uniquely ours,” writer/director Gary Young said of his decision to adapt the popular story.

“If you could have seen me sitting at the laptop acting out all the animals as I wrote it, that was probably a show in itself. Fortunately no one could see that except my cat and she’s a tough critic!”

Wombat Stew is the anticipated new collaboration between Young and celebrated Australian composer Paul Keelan, who have established themselves as a leading writing team in Australia having won the inaugural Pratt Prize for Music Theatre in 2002 (an Australian competition for writers of Music Theatre) and the Helpmann Award in 2007 for Best Original Score for their work Sideshow Alley.

For Young, the opportunity to return to his childhood for Wombat Stew was too good to pass up.

“As a writer, there is nothing I love more than telling a story that is based in our own history. It gives the work a real truth and honesty,” Young said.

“Working on Wombat Stew, I had a lot of flashbacks to when I was a kid in the country, sitting in the travelling theatre tent of Sorlies. I remembered how much I loved those pantomimes that the actors did for us all around the countryside.

“I wanted to get a sense of that into this piece, so I created a travelling troupe who are on the move around Australia and we find them camped in the outback preparing to present Wombat Stew for their audience, the kids of Australia.

“Tapping into that history, I also wanted to keep a sense of traditional pantomime alive and well, and it’s great to see the kids respond to it in just the same way we did many years earlier.”

Although Wombat Stew was first published more than 25 years ago, Young said its universal themes are still relevant to audiences of all ages.

“The story is about the good guys outwitting the bad guy in order to do a good deed and that doesn’t go out of fashion,” Young said.

“The moral that friends are to be valued and treated well is a lesson for us all, no matter what age we are.”

Wombat Stew is brought to life on stage by a talented ensemble of six actors who use classic story-telling, mime, song, dance, and puppetry in this magical musical adventure.

“I guarantee a fun time, lots of laughs and plenty of songs,” Young said.

Who could want more than that??

Wombat Stew plays at the Judith Wright Centre in late July. Details: or (07) 3872 9000.

Erin James

Erin James is's former Editor in Chief and a performer on both stage and screen. Credits include My Fair Lady, South Pacific and The King and I (Opera Australia), Love Never Dies and Cats (Really Useful Group), Blood Brothers (Enda Markey Presents), A Place To Call Home (Foxtel/Channel 7) and the feature film The Little Death (written and directed by Josh Lawson).

Erin James

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