Melbourne’s newest professional theatre company The Collective are making waves in the independent music theatre scene this week, with the opening of their debut production Parade, by Jason Robert Brown.
Staged at the little space that could, fortyfive downstairs, this production features some of Australia’s brightest music theatre talent in a cast led by Rob Guest Endowment finalist Luigi Lucente and Melbourne independent theatre darling Laura Fitzpatrick.
Playing until September 28, Parade tells the controversial yet true story of the 1913 murder trial of Jewish factory manager Leo Frank in Atlanta, Georgia. The show’s title refers to the annual parade held on Confederate Memorial Day, for it was on that day in 1913 that the murder took place. The parade (which is seen at the start, middle and end of the musical to mark the passing of years) was a rallying point for proud Southerners still affected by their defeat in the Civil War.
Executive Producer of the The Collective, Geordie Worland, spoke with AussieTheatre about the company, their mission and their journey to the stage with their debut production.
“The Collective was born out of an idea that I wanted to provide opportunity for this country’s outstanding talent that may not get a look-in at lead roles because they are not a television personality or a song competition winner” Worland told AussieTheatre, adding that while commercial musical theatre has its place, so too does smaller scale independent work.
Not content to let the big-shots monopolise music theatre in Australia, and after looking at various Theatre Company models around the country, Worland bounced ideas around with colleagues and professional performers, directors, musical directors, choreographers and created a mission and key objectives for what would eventually become The Collective.
“I wanted performers to have the ability to be part of the creative process and not just reproduce a show as it has been seen on The West End or Broadway. Essentially the idea was mine and The Collective was then pushed forward by a number of people.”
The mission statement for The Collective includes objectives like adding “diversity and choice for people working in the theatre industry to participate in shows that are not on offer by bigger producers” and reducing the importance of sets and special effects to “bring theatre back to the key elements of storytelling”.
Choosing Parade as their first work was a no-brainer, Worland explains. With a stunning score by Jason Robert Brown (The Last Five Years, Songs For A New World) and a book by Pulitzer Prize Winner Alfred Uhry (Driving Miss Daisy), the work is a gift for both actors and creatives.
“Parade really fits well with our mission to really look at outstanding story telling and gives performers the opportunity to portray real life characters and a true story. It also covers themes and issues still relevant today which is important for audiences to be able to relate. The other appeal is the fact that is rarely produced and this version has never been performed [in Australia] with a professional cast. To have the ability to provide that to an audience was also extremely exciting”, said Worland.
“It’s definitely a piece that Music Theatre fans know and love [but] I doubt many of the general public outside the industry could tell you anything about Parade. We do believe though that this show has something for most people who enjoy a real-life drama. It covers serious issues that are still evident today and any lover of Broadway musicals will be amazed by the music.”
With a cast and crew of over 30, Parade is only playing until September 28, but already the show has made a huge impact. With standing ovations and high praise from critics and industry alike, it seems The Collective have worked their magic with non-traditional staging and a collaborative approach.
“All reports have been positive with regards to Parade”, Worland told AussieTheatre after their third performance. “We have taken some risky decisions in the staging of this musical however it has most definitely paid off! The staging of this show is really exciting, but you will all just have to come and see it to find out why.”
The company have only just established themselves in the Melbourne music theatre world, but already have a clear plan for elevating their profile and undertakings in the future. Passionate and strong, Worland, along with Artistic Director James Cutler, is settling in for an exciting ride over the next two years as heads of the company.
“We have a couple of shows for next year that should see us performing in some of the major theatres in Melbourne within the next 18 months. We will have to keep a lid on what for now but they are very exciting and we are looking to have some familiar names involved with them.”
If anyone is keen to become involved with The Collective, be sure to drop them a line. Worland assures me that their doors are always open, and that – far from being an insular and exclusive company – auditions will always take place for every role in every production., making sure everyone has an opportunity to become involved.
So what are you waiting for? Head along to see Parade at fortyfivedownstairs this week and join the theatre revolution!
Until 28 September
Tickets are $45 full and $40 concession (all prices include booking fee).