The complete story of Australian Musicals

More than seven hundred musicals have been written by Australian’s and fans of musical theatre will be thrilled to learn that a new book has just been published by Allen and Unwin giving us the definitive history of the art form.

The Australian Musical: From the Beginning is now in print. Image copyright Allen & Unwin.

The Australian Musical: From the Beginning has taken authors Peter Pinne and Peter Wyllie Johnston more than eight years to complete. The final result is a masterpiece, a fabulous coffee table book which is brimming with facts and photographs.

The book lifts the lid on over 300 productions, taking us on a fascinating journey during which we learn of major international hits such as The Boy from Oz and Priscilla Queen of the Desert, through to long-forgotten gems, small amateur productions, lavish spectaculars, and we meet the pioneers who paved the way for leading industry figures such as Nick Enright.

Australian actor and writer Oscar Asche had the world’s longest-running musical on his hands when his comedy Chu Chin Chow opened in London during 1917, and he held that record for almost thirty years.

Sue Manger with authors Peter Pinne (far left) and Peter Wyllie Johnston at their book launch in Brisbane. Sue and Peter Pinne worked together at the Grundy Organisation in Sydney where she was Head of Casting. Photo by Luz Stanton.

Fast forward to 1927 and the musical comedy Hullo Healo became the first all-Australian musical to hit the London stage, an achievement which would not be repeated until 1995 with the arrival of Prisoner Cell Block H – The Musical at the Queen’s Theatre.

The book includes a fact filled A-Z section showcasing hundreds of productions with cast and crew lists, storyline synopsis, critics comments and much more. It’s clear that this tome has been a labour of love for authors Peter Wyllie Johnston and Peter Pinne, few people would be more qualified to write such a work.

Peter Wyllie Johnston is a musician, composer and writer, he is also the director of the Australian Music Theatre Research Institute. Peter Pinne will need little introduction to television viewers, as a senior executive with the Grundy Organisation he worked on many hit Australian TV shows such as The Young Doctors, The Restless Years, Neighbours, Richmond Hill, and he wrote the theme tune to Sons & Daughters with his long-time collaborator Don Battye. In fact, Peter Pinne and Don Battye were the most prolific creators of Australian musicals during the 20th Century.

The Australian Musical: From the Beginning would make an ideal Christmas gift for any musical theatre fan and can be purchased online from Amazon or from the Book Depository.

Authors Peter Pinne (front left) and Peter Wyllie Johnston at their Brisbane book launch. Guests at the event included (from left to right at the rear) composer and musician Ralph Tyrell, Barbara, and actress Luz Stanton (previously known as Luz Yeomans) who appeared in Sons & Daughters. Photo by Sue Manger.