The Australian premiere of The Grinning Man

Vass Productions and Salty Theatre are thrilled to present the Australian premiere of West End cult-hit The Grinning Man at Alex Theatre St Kilda from 2 May. It will be the musical’s first English speaking production outside the UK.

Based on the novel The Man Who Laughs by Victor Hugo (Les Miserables), this award-winning musical is a wildly different fairytale set in a world of pitch-black humour, magic, mayhem and alluring romance.

From the minds of Carl Grose (Robin Hood), Tim Phillips (Bad Sisters), Marc Teitler (Game of Thrones) and Tom Morris (War Horse), tickets to the Australian debut are available via Audiences are advised to act fast to secure their entrance to this mysterious and macabre world.

A strange new act has arrived at Trafalgar Fair’s freakshow. Who is Grinpayne and how did he get his hideous smile? In the grim and blackened streets of Trafalgar Square, with the help of an old puppeteer, his pet wolf and a blind girl, Grinpayne’s tale is told.

Desperate to know the terrible secrets of his mysterious past and discover the truth of his gruesome disfigurement, Grinpayne leaves everything he knows and loves behind and embarks on a journey into an even crueller world. Welcome to an epic tale of gothic horror, laughter, hope and humanity’s deep desire to be ‘seen’ and loved for who we truly are – in our darkness and our light.

Taking on the starring role of Grinpayne (The Grinning Man) is accomplished mainstage performer Maxwell Simon. Maxwell was most recently standby for the male lead Christian in Moulin Rouge! The Musical for two years of the smash hit tour, and has performed a slew of acclaimed principal roles. Playing Greg Connell in The Boy From Oz for The Production Company and Bjorn Ulvaeus in Muriel’s Wedding The Musical for Global Creatures, Maxwell has also performed more left of centre roles such as Ex in Bananaland (Brisbane Festival and Sydney Festival) and Lee Harvey Oswald/The Balladeer in Assassins for Hayes Theatre Co and Sydney Opera House.

Performing the romantic lead role of the sightless young woman who holds the secret to Grinpayne’s past is Helpmann Award nominated Luisa Scrofani (In The Heights, A Funny Thing Happened On The Way to the Forum).

Seventeen-year-old blind musician and singer Lilly Cascun will make her professional debut in the role of Young Dea, and has been dreaming of a career on stage since a very young age.

Director Miranda Middleton (Voldemort and the Teenage Hogwarts Musical Parody, Salty Theatre; Assistant Director Come Rain or Come Shine Melbourne Theatre Company 2022) snapped up one of the last seats to a performance of the musical in London’s West End.


My friend had seen it and thought that I’d like it, so along I went, on a whim – not knowing that I was going to walk out of that little West End theatre vowing to one day direct it.

The Grinning Man is a big, beautiful beast of a musical. It features puppets and swordfights, pleasure-seeking royals, and a nefarious clown. There’s just as much hilarity as there is heartache, darkness as there is magic…and when London reviewers called it the “best British score in years”, they weren’t joking. The music is nothing short of magnificent.

Our production will take a slightly more abstract path than the original, drawing inspiration from the shapes and shadows of German expressionism, whilst using carnivalesque lights and video projection to transport audiences from the world of Trafalgar Fair to the royal palace (and everywhere in between).

The rest of the highly skilled cast possess an impressive array of stage credits, and striking musical ability. Matthew Hearne plays freak-wrangler Osric and the role of Young Grinpayne; Jennifer Vuletic will perform the role of Barkilphedro, a cynical servant clown with a dirty secret; Dom Hennequin plays Ursus the travelling puppet purveyor; Anthony Craig will take on the role of the vain Lord Dirry Moir and play Guitar; while Melanie Bird plays the pleasure-seeking Princess Josiana and performs the Violin.

Stephanie Astrid John performs Queen Angelica who is outcast from her family; Luke Leong-Tay takes on Grinpayne’s father Lord Trelaw and plays Guitar, and Shelley Dunlop will play Grinpayne’s Mother and perform on the Violin. Cameron Bajraktarevic-Hayward is the Dance Captain and performs the role of Mojo as well as playing the Cello.

The brilliant David Youings (Moulin Rouge! The Musical, Global Creatures; The Wedding Singer, DVE) takes on the soaring, stirring score as Musical Director, while the Green Room Award winning Freya List (Cruel Intentions The ‘90s Musical, DVE; Chess, Storeyboard Entertainment) brings her inspired, unique vision to the role of Choreographer. The sensational Aaron Murray (Halftime the Musical, The Hayes; Bad Machine, Casula Powerhouse) will transport audiences to a gothic fairytale complete with carnivals and freak shows as Lighting Designer. The wonderfully multi-talented Sophie Woodward (Death of a Salesman, GWB Entertainment and Red Line Productions; Monument, Red Stitch Actors Theatre) invites you into the macabre and magical world as Set and Costume Designer.

Aleksandar Vass OAM of Vass Productions is thrilled to be joining forces with Ashley Taylor Tickell and Salty Theatre to produce The Grinning Man, the first of many bold new works they plan to stage at Alex Theatre, and his new project of passion as the venue enters its 10th year.


It’s been a 10 year project to make this venue viable, and we couldn’t be prouder of how far we’ve come. As everyone knows, it’s not an easy task to open a new theatre in Melbourne.

Now the groundwork has been laid, we plan to stage our own new productions while continuing to provide opportunities for a diverse range of producers, artists and locals.We’re currently working on a range of new musicals that will premiere in the second half of 2024. Our goal is to present ten musicals a year in the main theatre.

Together, Vass and Taylor Tickell plan to introduce Australian audiences to productions that are distinctly left of centre, powerful, and entirely novel.

Taylor Tickell:

There aren’t many musical theatre producers that are willing to take the risk on shows that haven’t been seen in Australia time and again. We love the jukebox musicals and standards, don’t get us wrong! But we truly believe there’s also a place here for those ‘left of centre’, rougher around the edges, ‘riskier’ shows. That is what we hope to bring to Melbourne audiences with The Grinning Man and our upcoming productions.

Home to The George Cinema until 2014, Alex Theatre houses two 250-500 seat theatres, a large studio space, a smaller podcast studio and two multipurpose spaces. Writers, comedians, podcasters, entertainment industry educators, filmmakers, dancers and clowns are just some of the artists that now call the multispace arts centre home.

Season Details

Venue: Alex Theatre St Kilda
Date: 25 Apr – 19 May 2024

For more information click Here

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