When Mamma Mia swept through Canberra in late 2017 it took the city by storm with a spectacularly successful run and left an impression on the nearly 33,000 people fortunate enough to go.
The astounding ticket sales Mamma Mia achieved demonstrated Canberra’s ravenous appetite for premium musical theatre.
And while some time has passed since, in a coup for the arts in Canberra it was announced earlier this month that Canberra Theatre will host a three-week season of West Side Story in October.
Produced by Opera Australia and GWB Entertainment, Canberra audiences will be treated to a fully professional production featuring a live 20-piece orchestra and a 33-member, all-Australian cast.
With performances at the Canberra Theatre scheduled from 10 to 27 October, its timing will complement one of Canberra’s biggest tourism drawcards in Floriade.
The ACT Government has also contributed $100,000 through its Major Event Fund to sweeten the deal for the producers.
ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr said acquiring the three-week run is a coup for the Canberra region’s theatregoers.
“This venue demonstrated its capacity to host major shows with the outrageous success of Mamma Mia … it generated nearly $4.5 million of economic activity in Canberra.
“Canberrans love a good musical, so I have no doubt West Side Story will be as popular, if not more popular, than Mamma Mia,” Mr Barr said.
Opera Australia Executive Producer Alex Budd told Canberra Weekly that West Side Story broadens the musical works they perform to cater to the widest audience possible.
“There’s a lot of wonderful musical theatre that’s come out of the 20th century, and this is one of the icons,” he said.
Mr Budd added that a new theatre complex would make Canberra far more attractive for touring productions, as the limited 1,200-seat capacity at Canberra Theatre reduces profit margins and acts as a deterrent for many.
“When you look at the statistics about Canberrans attending musicals, it’s really low here when compared to other capital cities and it’s not because the audience doesn’t want it.
“This venue is not big enough to technically house a lot of the big productions, and with enough seats to make the finances work,” he said.
West Side Story will be performed at the Canberra Theatre Centre on 10-27 October; canberratheatrecentre.com.au