Melbourne, Sydney … next stop New York

Driftwood The Musical is based on Eva de Jong-Duldig’s critically acclaimed memoir Driftwood: Escape and survival through art and the original stage play by Jane Bodie.

Photo: Cameron Grant
Photo: Cameron Grant

Following a sold-out world premiere Melbourne season in 2022, Driftwood The Musical have their sights set on the global stage, following the producers’ announcement that the show will head to New York later this year to explore its potential in the heartland of musical theatre.

The producers of this moving story of a family surviving the ravages of war will transfer to New York in the spring to undertake a series of workshops and presentations. Early discussions with theatre owners and investors will additionally take place to determine the scheduling of a future New York season and potential tour.

The New York workshops will be directed by awarding-winning Australian director, Gary Abrahams, boasting a repertoire of Yentl, 33 Variations starring Academy Award-winner Ellen Burstyn, Admissions for Melbourne Theatre Company, and the Australian premieres of Hand to God and Bad Jews. Musical director and composer Anthony Barnhill will also be going to New York.

Photo: Cameron Grant

Driftwood The Musical is based on Eva de Jong-Duldig’s critically acclaimed memoir Driftwood: Escape and survival through art and the original stage play by Jane Bodie.

The show is presented by the Umbrella Foundation and has now been nominated for a Green Room Award 2022.

With an original score by Barnhill, Driftwood follows the lives of renowned Austrian sculptor, Karl Duldig, and his artist and inventor wife, Slawa Horowitz-Duldig, through pre-war Vienna and Slawa’s invention of the original foldable umbrella. Miraculously escaping Nazi-controlled Austria and the Holocaust, the show illustrates the tragedy of separation and loss of family and belongings, and the eventual rebuilding of Karl and Slawa’s lives on the other side of the world.

Photo: Cameron Grant

For Tania de Jong, producer of the show and granddaughter of Karl and Slawa, the opportunity to take her family’s story to the global stage is not only significant for bringing this story to a broader audience, but highlighting the importance of documenting our community’s history.

“In Australia we tend to have a lot of stories that are from other places and are not our own,” de Jong says.

“While Driftwood is an extraordinary true story, it’s also a collection of a stories that we share with all Jewish families.

“This is a global story and a Jewish story. It’s very important that these sorts of stories of Jewish people and their survival, resilience, creativity and innovation be told to a global audience of all backgrounds and identities. It’s also very timely because we live in a very divided world, and it’s an important reminder to build bridges of understanding between diverse people, not walls between us.”

For the crew and team behind the show, the glimmering lights of the New York Broadway scene present endless opportunities.

The Driftwood cast

“New York is the spiritual home of the musical world, we are humbled and excited to have this opportunity to further the Driftwood story and share it with New York audiences,” producer Peter Hunt said.

“The audience and critical reaction to the premiere season has been beyond our wildest dreams. The interest from New York is the icing on the cake. We can’t wait to start work and see what can be achieved,” echoed Barnhill.

Despite its international prospects, Driftwood will be presenting a return season by popular demand at Chapel Off Chapel in Melbourne and premiere seasons in Sydney in May and June. This powerful and moving show is being reworked with new songs, scenes and surprises since its sell-out world premiere in Melbourne last May. Critics have described it as “mesmerising”, “sublime” and “stunningly crafted”.

“Driftwood comes together with so much talent and commitment. This show has heart,” said Cameron Woodhead from The Age.

Abrahams described the family history that the show is based on as courageous.

“The family history behind this show is one of extraordinary courage, ingenuity and artistic triumph in the face of the enormity of the Holocaust, and the unimaginable trauma and loss experienced by those who survived it.”

Driftwood The Musical will return to Chapel Off Chapel from May 3-20, before travelling to Sydney playing three seasons at Glen Street Theatre, May 24-28, Riverside Theatres, May 31 to June 4 and Eternity Playhouse, June 7-18.

Tickets to Driftwood The Musical can be booked at




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