Everybody knows the story of Cinderella but this version is unlike anything you’ve seen before. And that’s exactly what co-writers and co-directors Dean Murphy and Pip Mushin had in mind when they were writing the newest Australian musical, Midnight – The Cinderella Musical.
For the pair, the messaging behind Midnight is exceptionally important, especially because they have daughters themselves.
“The messaging in Cinderella is not necessarily something we want our daughters to be exposed to,” Mushin told The AJN, ahead of Midnight opening in Melbourne. “It’s really a fairytale that needs upgrading. We really need a Cinderella who’s not waiting for a prince to sweep her off her feet and solve all her problems for her and ride off into the sunset.”
So, they considered how to tell the story of a girl who is empowered. One who doesn’t need a man to come and save her. That was the starting point for the production.
Mushin, who originally started his career in front of the camera as an actor but very quickly caught the directing bug, said while he originally worked in TV and film, musical theatre was always his first passion. When he got a bit older, started his family and had children, he decided that he had to do what he loved. He acknowledged though that it all happened earlier in his career than he thought he would.
“I was fortunate to get opportunities to work as a resident director on some very big musicals, like The Book of Mormon,” he recalled, explaining that he loved the challenge of acting, it was the challenge of directing that he appreciated more.
“Whenever I was acting, I was always very interested in the directing side of things. I like the challenge of making a story come to life from beginning to end, interpreting it with a vision that you have with those you collaborate with, and musical theatre is very much a collaboration between writers, directors, musical directors and choreographers.”
Midnight is a home-grown musical, developed in Australia and featuring an all-Australian cast. It’s something Mushin is very proud of. Mushin acknowledges that there are not a lot of people who are willing to put money into developing a musical from scratch. It’s quite a different experience.
“When the bigger musicals come to Australia, they’re tried and tested,” he said. “They’re huge, Tony-award winning hits. Everything has been developed over several years. [With a home-grown musical], it’s very different. Putting it together now in rehearsal, we have different challenges that what you wouldn’t have in in a show that’s tried and tested. You’ll be in rehearsals and realise we need a bit more transition music, we need more underscore here. All that stuff is locked off when you’re doing a tried and tested show.”
Mushin said though that the process gives those involved the freedom to take whichever direction they believe works.
“While it makes the whole process more demanding, and more involved, and it’s a challenge, there’s a sense of freedom there too,” he said.
Mushin said while West End and Broadway are so well known for their musical theatre accolades, there’s absolutely no reason why Australia can’t be framed in the same way.
“We have great performers here, and great creative people – musical directors, directors, choreographers. There’s no reason why we can’t put on an amazing show in Australia,” he said.
“We have a script that’s homegrown and written by myself and David Murphy, and then the music written by fabulous composers like John Foreman and Anthony Costanzo. We’re very fortunate and very proud to be able to be able to present this work with a completely Australian cast.”
The cast includes Brianna Bishop as Ella, Lucy Durack as Ms Madrina, Thomas McGuane as the Prince and Shane Jacobson as the King.
Jacobson explained that he loves the way Midnight frames the story of Cinderella, especially as he has his own daughter to consider.
“It’s not a girl waiting for some Prince to come down and save her. He’s got to prove his worth and it’s the Cinderella story told in a way that has never been seen before,” he said.
Mushin also said that they were conscious throughout the writing process that the team wanted Midnight to be a family-friendly musical, albeit one that adults can still come to and enjoy without kids. He phrases it as a ‘dual purpose musical’ and said no matter what age, audiences will be captivated by the music and the stage settings.
“The music is just stunning, it’s incredible. We have fun songs and lush ballads that will just blow people away in terms of how beautiful the score is,” he said, explaining that a lot of the traditional elements of Cinderella are still included, just in a slightly different way.
“We’ve really tried to play with a bit of the iconic moments of the Cinderella story,” he explained. “So, things like the slipper, they’re in our story, but they’re treated a little differently. We have some nice surprises for the audience from that point of view. While we’ve based it on the Cinderella story, it’s not necessarily a story that everyone will know. There’s no point in doing the same story over and over again. So we’ve done our own version, which we hope is going to become an iconic version of Cinderella.”
Midnight – The Cinderella Musical opened on June 23. For tickets, visit midnightthemusical.com.au