Dr Zhivago Lives On

AussieTheatre.com Exclusive

Lucy Maunder and Jamie Ward in Dr Zhivago. Image by Kurt Sneddon
Lucy Maunder and Jamie Ward in Dr Zhivago. Image by Kurt Sneddon

Over the past 12 months, Australia has become recognised around the world as the number one place to workshop and ‘try out’ new musicals.  Love Never Dies, An Officer and A Gentleman, King Kong, Dream Lover, Strictly Ballroom, How To Train Your Dragon and Dr Zhivago have all been either workshopped, commercially produced or are in pre-production ‘down under’.

Producers from all corners of the world are sitting up and taking notice it seems, and Australia is being hailed by pundits as the perfect “Off Off (Off) Broadway” tryout venue, both creatively and financially.

“More people are seeing the marvellous talent pool in Australia, the wonderful facilities that are available and the opportunities to get away from the mainstream gossip of America”, American producer Sharleen Cooper Cohen told AussieTheatre.com in an exclusive interview.

“It’s a much better investment because we can do a commercial run here and our investors can earn money rather than what goes on in the United States. If you were to mount a brand new musical in a regional theatre, it would be a short run … and the investors don’t make money”

Lucy Simon’s brand new musical Dr Zhivago had it’s world premiere in Sydney on February 19, starring Anthony Warlow, Lucy Maunder and Taneel Van Zyl.

Despite only playing three cities in Australia, the show was lauded a triumph, and has sparked the interest of many producers world wide. Australian audiences may have seen the last of Yuri, Tonia and Lara for a while, but an exciting development on the Dr. Zhivago front is the announcement of a Korean language production of the show, which will open in Seoul, South Korea in January 2012.
AussieTheatre.com can confirm that the Australian production team including musical director Kellie Dickerson and resident director Shaun Murphy are currently in Korea auditioning Korean actors for the production.

“We will re-create the Australian production in Seoul, in Korean language for Korean actors”, said producer of the original Australian production, John Frost.

The Korean producers, who had also invested in the Australian production were tossing up between taking the Australian company to Seoul (without Anthony Warlow – as he had already been announced as Daddy Warbucks in Annie, also produced by Frost) or to mount a completely translated, Korean language production.

“We did get halfway down the road with negotiations for the Australian cast to head over to Korea, but it ended up being too expensive for the Korean producers, so unfortunately we couldn’t take the Australian company out there,”, Frost told AussieTheatre.com.

Translating musicals into Korean is not uncommon: In 2008, while the Australian cast of CATS was playing in Seoul, a Korean language production was mounted, bumping into the same theatre as the Aussie cast bumped out. This same production will open on September 17 2011, in Seoul to celebrate CATS’ 30th Birthday. Mama Mia, Notre Dame de Paris, Dreamgirls, The Phantom of the Opera are among the shows which have been translated into Korean.

The Korean language production of Dr Zhivago is set to open in Seoul with the hopes of running at least 12 weeks. This is an exciting development in the life of Dr Zhivago – The Musical, and a coup for the Australian musical theatre industry. The show which was originated by Australian actors is now being re-mounted in another language, bringing the musical to life in another culture on another continent. And the good news doesn’t stop here.

“We’ve also had various offers throughout Europe for the production. We are putting all that together now, and figuring out what the next step will be”, John Frost told AussieTheatre.com. Frost indicated that it is not certain whether the interest from Europe involves more translated productions, or if the Australian company may have another chance to perform the show.  “We don’t know yet. There is certainly a lot of interest for it”, said Frost.

Finally, Frost admits, the show is in need of reworking and revision in order to cement the story, the music and to iron out the kinks. “We have all realised that the show needs work – it’s about 80% there. Des [McAnuff – director] is keen to come back and Lucy [Simon] is keen to rewrite and reshape it for further markets”, Frost said.

This commitment to developing the product and re-working the show to “get it how we want it” not only demonstrates the worldwide support for the Australian musical theatre industry, but the benefits of workshopping new material in Australia.

Perhaps the only disappointment was the cancellation of the original cast recording, mainly due to time restraints. (see our Interview with Anthony Warlow for further information)

“Above all, the whole exercise of doing [Dr Zhivago] here first has paid off in the sense that the show will have a bigger life internationally”, Frost proudly stated. “It’s what I had hoped for Dr. Zhivago and also what I want to happen for An Officer and A Gentleman and also for Dream Lover.”

Erin James

Erin James is AussieTheatre.com's former Editor in Chief and a performer on both stage and screen. Credits include My Fair Lady, South Pacific and The King and I (Opera Australia), Love Never Dies and Cats (Really Useful Group), Blood Brothers (Enda Markey Presents), A Place To Call Home (Foxtel/Channel 7) and the feature film The Little Death (written and directed by Josh Lawson).

Erin James

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