The secret is out. Music Theatre Melbourne has revealed the identity of the ‘international mystery guest’ who will join its four Australian judges to determine the winner of its exciting quest for a new musical that finds its inspiration in the challenge of COVID19, COVID: The Musical, which will be staged in September 2021.
The fifth judge is none other than 3 time Academy Award and 3 time Grammy Award winner Stephen Schwartz, a living legend of the musical theatre world, and the creator of landmark shows such as The Prince of Egypt, Wicked, Godspell, Pippin, Children of Eden, The Baker’s Wife and many more.
We are all living through a very difficult period, and the arts in general and musical theatre specifically have been especially hard hit. MTM’s competition helps to provide hope to Australian writers for the future. I commend MTM for its initiative in creating this opportunity for Australian writers to have their work developed and staged next year, when we hope the worst of this pandemic will be behind us, Schwartz said.
In the daunting task of selecting the winning musical, Stephen joins MTM’s distinguished Australian panel. Chaired by Melbourne writer/director Peter Fitzpatrick, MTM’s Artistic Director, it also includes Kevin Purcell, a most respected Australian composer, conductor and musical director, well-known actor/singer Angela Scundi and innovative theatre-maker and director Roman Berry.
Peter Fitzpatrick said “I am honoured to be chairing the panel that comprises such a wonderful team of judges. This bold initiative in fostering new work in a dark time could not be in better hands”.
The response to the initial call for expressions of interest was, frankly, overwhelming. But we look forward eagerly to seeing the full submissions, and to finding our winner, Fitzpatrick said
“It is a tremendous opportunity for local writers to show their work to a man who has done it all on the international stage – and who has been a generous mentor to two generations of American writers while continuing to imagine multiple projects of his own”.
MTM’s initiative in inviting local writers to find some creative light amid the oppressive darkness of the COVID pandemic is an extension of its long commitment to the development of original Australian musicals; most recently, that has resulted in the acclaimed concert production of Jon English’s ‘PARIS: A Rock Odyssey’ at the Melbourne Recital Centre in 2017, and Drew Lane’s cult hit ‘Electric Dreams’ in 2019. Another exciting new Australian musical, Peter Fitzpatrick and Simon Stone’s ‘Castro’s Children’, was to have opened this year and has been rescheduled for March 2021.
Some of the major contemporary musicals have been conceived in response to terrible experiences: Rent in the midst of the AIDS epidemic, Next to Normal as documentation of bipolar disorder, and Come from Away in the wake of ‘9/11’, to name but a few. Art is never more important than when the human spirit is most severely tested. I am thrilled to play my part in MTM’s initiative in encouraging and enabling Australian writers to play theirs, Fitzpatrick added.
The winning entry of MTM’s COVID challenge will be announced on 1 November 2020 and will be staged in September 2021.