Created by Salty Theatre, The Hatch Lab Musical Theatre Residency Program assists artists in their development of new Australian musicals. Their inaugural workshop and musical is Paper Stars.
Paper Stars is a new Australian musical which theatricalises the early career of one of Australia’s most successful storytellers. Everyone knows her as the woman who created Mary Poppins, but who was P.L Travers before she became famous? Inspired by true events (yet told with a healthy spoonful of imagination), it follows the intrepid Helen Lyndon Goff as she leaves home – with just a feather and a carpet bag – to forge a career for herself in London. While she successfully reinvents herself as P.L Travers, and finds the inspiration to write her world-famous novel, she must also deal with some baggage from her past…With a whimsical book by Grace Chapple and Miranda Middleton, and an original score by Luke Byrne, Paper Stars is a story about learning how to cope in a dark world, and finding magic in real people and things, rather than fantasy.
After a lengthy audition process and a record number of submissions for the company, Sarahlouise Younger and Ashley Taylor, co-founders of Salty Theatre, are beyond thrilled to announce the incredible cast that will be working together, alongside a stellar creative and to develop and debut Paper Stars.
Salty Theatre‘s mission is to connect with global artists and creators to introduce never before seen works to Australia, working alongside local creatives to bring relevant, edgy, inspired pieces of theatre to the Australian arts community. The company is committed to conscious casting and to the greater representation of Australia’s present-day population in live performance – the casting of Paper Stars reflects a combination of conscious and open casting in order to reflect the cultural and racial face of the population of the place in which it is performed. Specific roles, including that of P.L. Travers, were only open to performers who were Black, Indigenous, or People of Colour (BIPOC) or Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD). This marks a huge change within casting processes, and will hopefully set a precedent for other companies to follow. The cast of Paper Stars represents Australia’s unique multicultural face via our Artistes who represents First Nations, BIPOC, CALD, and Caucasian performers, as well as two International performers coming from Canada and America (who now reside in Australia).
Producer Sarahlouise Younger said:
When I was just entering the industry I was taught to “look” for casting notices that said “open to ethnically diverse individuals.” As a young performer, this had quite an impact on me and so, naturally, when Ashley and I joined forces we both knew this was a casting-culture we wanted to tackle head-on. I want Salty Theatre to be a place where BIPOC/CALD performers are given the opportunity to tell stories and work their craft without it having to always be a by-product of educating the audience. I also hope that one day performers such as myself can scrap that label entirely and have the privilege of simply being called ‘a performer’. Paper Stars is our first Musical where we have implemented our company’s conscious-casting policy. Conscious-Casting is an active response to force change, it says I see the problem and I’m going to bring those who have been forgotten or relegated to tokenistic hand-outs and “radical” casting choices to the front.
The pivotal role of Australian storyteller P.L. Travers will be played by Helpmann Award nominee Luisa Scrofani (In the Heights, JRP Australia; My Brilliant Career, MLive; Violet, Blue Saint Productions), with the role of Madge Burnand being played by esteemed musical theatre performer, writer, and dramaturg Brittanie Shipway (The Sapphires, HIT Productions; Big Fish, The Hayes Theatre; Theatre Works’ First Nations Resident Writer & Dramaturg 2021).
The musical also stars Melanie Bird (My Brilliant Career: Cast Recording, MLive; Castro’s Children: Original Cast Recording, Music Theatre Melbourne), Rob Blowers (Kettlehouse, Antipodes Theatre Company; Nine, Stage Art), Tomáš Kantor (Fangirls, Belvoir St; Woodstock: A 50th Anniversary Celebration, Tyran Parke), Alessandra Merlo (Big Fish, Hayes Theatre Co; Father Figure, Andy Johnston), Rebecca Morton (Rise Again, Dirty Pennies Theatre Project; Love’s Labour’s Lost, Melbourne Shakespeare Company), Tomas Parrish (When the Light Leaves, Citizen Theatre; Vivid White, MTC), Guillermo Urra (Voldemort and the Teenage Hogwarts Musical Parody, Salty Theatre; Evil Dead the Musical, Ground Zero Theatre).
This stellar cast is led by an equally impressive creative team: Director Miranda Middleton (The Great and Powerful Oz(zie), The Old 505 Theatre; Ned: A New Australian Musical, The New Theatre), Musical Director David Youings (Voldemort and the Teenage Hogwarts Musical Parody, Salty Theatre; Muriel’s Wedding, Music Team Secondment/Global Creatures) and Choreographer Madeline Pratt (Moments, Producer & Choreographer; The Masked Singer, Network 10)
Producer Ashley Taylor commented:
Sarahlouise and I created The Hatch Lab so we could forge a safe experimental environment for budding Australian Musical Theatre Creatives. The Residency is 12 months long and gives our residents the opportunity to workshop their Musical in collaboration with the Actors as well as a committed development and creative team plus international and national mentors. As soon as we read Paper Stars we knew this show was something special. Grace, Miranda and Luke have created a musical which is filled with heart, guts and gripping music. PL was an extraordinary woman, with a life equal parts beautiful and troubled. Paper Stars will be a wonderful addition to Australian Musical Theatre.
Stage Manager Andrew Hughes (Voldemort and the Teenage Hogwarts Musical Parody, Salty Theatre; The Selfish Giant, ASM Intern/Victorian Opera), Set and Costume Designer Madeline Nibali (Voldemort and the Teenage Hogwarts Musical Parody, Salty Theatre; Hotel Bonegilla, La Mama) and Light and Sound Designer Caidan de Win (Voldemort and the Teenage Hogwarts Musical Parody, Salty Theatre; Theory of Relativity, Lighting Design/Lightbox Productions) round out an amazing company that absolutely cannot wait to bring this magical new musical to life.
Now, more than ever, we all need a little magic in our lives.
The World Premiere of Paper Stars opens at Theatre Works from 3-13 November, 2021.
For tickets and more information, please visit the Theatre Works website.
This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body.
Header image credit: Adam Gardner