Theatre’s home on the radio airwaves

Broadway At Bedtime (B@B) has been a fantastic success since it launched four years ago. Editor Troy Dodds caught up with the radio team of PJ Buchanan and Will Conyers to discuss the past, the present and the future…

TD: Where did the original idea come from?
WILL: Well back on December 20, 2005…
PJ: Will asked me whether I wanted to do a show about music theatre on JOY and it went from there…
WILL: Sorry – he always interrupts me. As I was saying, we were told that there were a few gaps in programming at JOY. I rang to ask PJ if he would, and he said yes. Then I asked him about the radio idea. I drafted a pitch for the 9pm time slot on a Sunday with this real dicky working title ,Broadway at Bedtime. PJ said…
PJ: …that’s not a working title, that’s it!
WILL: I said, “PJ, the tablets are on the kitchen bench!”. Happily, he was right. We did a crash course at JOY over that Christmas and we first went to air on New Year’s Day, 2006. God – we’re now in our 5th year and I still think that the title is daggy and clunky.
PJ: Like us really. But we must remember that the industry was in the doldrums and we wanted to provide some much-needed morale raising!!
WILL: And quite immodestly, we took this task upon ourselves – and we’re loving it.

TD: It has been a great success and has become very well known, what’s the secret?
PJ: I think the secret is that we just have fun and are doing something we truly love doing.
WILL: Yes – a teaspoon of insanity helps some of our news go down in a more delightful way.
PJ: But, seriously, Will has one of those archival brains about Music Theatre and his research is absurdly thorough, although these days he looks like he is doing most of it ‘on the fly’, such is his knowledge. With almost 20 years of friendship and professional experience together, we bounce very well off each other and the team of people we work with are very passionate about the form.
WILL: I think, too, that part of it’s success is that we saw a gap and we filled a need. We remain Australia’s only Music Theatre and Cabaret Current Affairs program. There are some great track-based Music Theatre shows on air, but no one does what we do and none of them can boast the incredible guest list that we have accrued over just four years. Some ‘biggies’ are coming up. And we’re pretty sure JOY likes having us there as well.

TD: How giving has the industry been to the show?
WILL: Depends what you mean by ‘giving’. I think we would like to know that more students of the form used the show as an educational resource – and would let us know that they are listening. I mean, we created the show FOR our industry and those interested in the form. I would also love to know when our pro’s are listening.
PJ: I agree with Will, though we still have problems with some publicists!!  Most artists are more than willing to support the show and use it as another publicity tool, especially because they know they’re going to get an entirely different interview experience on B@B than they would anywhere else.
WILL: So true. We get told THAT over and over again. Got to get past those dodgy press releases and get into the content that our audience wants to hear. And that takes research and the artist’s trust in you.
PJ: I really do think we have earned that trust now.

TD: What are the plans for the future?
PJ: Top secret!!
WILL: I am so glad you told me, PJ. I shall keep my trap shut. But, we should let you know that the radio arm of BROADWAY AT BEDTIME is not going anywhere.

TD: Who has been your favourite guest and why?
WILL: God, they always ask this question and I hate choosing a ‘favourite’. You go, PJ.
PJ: Lorna Luft – such a wonderfully talented and giving performer and someone who has become a great mate of B@B and a mate in general. Will? C’mon – name a few.
WILL: Well Lorna, of course – but there are gift moments that come along that have reminded me that I am alive. Silvie Paladino singing ‘Your Grace Still Amazes Me’ at our 150th; being silly with Anthony Warlow; having Mandy Patinkin just say ‘yes’ when we were  tee-ing up our 2nd interview with him (that he remembered the first one blew me away); having Stephen Scwartz tear up when I gave him his intro; there are so many but the biggest compliment is when I walk up to an artist in a foyer with a microphone and they just agree to an interview. That means a lot to me. Our 200th show from back to front was pretty bloody good.

TD: How do you rate the media when it comes to its coverage of Australian theatre?
WILL: Hmmmm. Print media is not good at the moment and it has been. I mean, while we can see five or six of the back pages of a newspaper (Sport), with barely an ad in sight and, by comparison, the Arts/Entertainment is riddled with advertising and any editorial is squeezed in (probably edited to shreds), I think we have a problem in our cultural value of the arts as vital and necessary tool for the preservation of a sane society. I think it’s unbalanced and I think perhaps a convincing argument could be put together that the behaviour of some of our sporting greats has been the spawning ground of some of our social behavioural issues. What do you think, Peej?
PJ: Couldn’t agree more. But, to answer the actual question. Sorry, Will, but I think it’s Shithouse!  Honestly, if it were left to the conventional media outlets, no one in this country would know about any Music Theatre unless it was Wicked or Jersey Boys.
WILL: And there is sooooo much more going on than those shows. It’s just that the smaller, more boutique, productions can’t pay for that sort of publicist or publicity or all the contra that goes with it. I would like to see TV do a hell of a lot more too. But, it’s the web-based information that goes beyond the narrow field that TV and Tabloid makes their focus and we have to be thankful for sites like Aussie Theatre to serve this need.

Broadway at Bedtime airs on Sunday nights from 9pm on JOY 94.9 in Melbourne.

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