Put Smashmouth on repeat and bust out the green face paint because Canberra Theatre will ‘get the show on’ in February 2021 when Shrek the Musical takes the stage.
Produced by one of Australia’s most prolific and successful theatre companies, The Gordon Frost Organisation, their interrupted Australian tour of Shrek the Musical will recommence in Queensland early January before starting its Canberra run from 14 February.
Canberra’s love for major commercial musical theatre productions has been demonstrated twice in the past three years; initially with Mamma Mia in 2017 and then in 2019 with Westside Story.
Having been at Opera Australia when they brought Westside Story to Canberra in 2019, Theatre director Alex Budd told Canberra Weekly that Shrek will cater to Canberra’s “great, broad love” for large-scale musicals.
“We’re slowly but surely building what in other capital cities is a really large sector of the audience,” he said.
“Unfortunately, Canberra hasn’t had an equal dose, they’re obviously not the only productions people want to see … but to work with Australia’s most prolific music theatre producer is great.”
Mr Budd said running major commercial productions in Canberra hasn’t been feasible in the past given the economic limitations of Canberra Theatre’s 1,200-seat capacity.
“We’ll do what we can prior to the new theatre eventuating down the track, which is a high priority infrastructure project of the ACT Government,” he said.
Mr Budd said when complete, the proposed 2,000-seat venue would become “a real game changer”.
“When you’ve got the ability to bring 2,000 people a night to anything, it changes the economics of everything you can do,” he said.
Presenting late-1990s, early-2000s pop alongside older classics that drive the story forward, Shrek’s rich soundtrack is part of what helped the movie resonate so well upon release and has continued to propel its sustained global success as a musical since debuting on Broadway in 2008.
“A large-scale, fun-filled musical theatre production that appeals to people aged nine to 90 is great news,” Mr Budd said.
“To be able to bring this as a fruition as a part of Canberra and the creative recovery in the ACT after the year we’ve had makes it even more special.”
Since reopening to audiences in August, Mr Budd said the local voracious appetite for live theatre has been noticed and greatly appreciated.
“We have barely had an empty seat in our reduced capacity offerings since we reopened. The Wharf Revue sold more tickets this year than they did last year,” he said.
Under local health directions, Canberra Theatre is currently able to host audiences at 65% capacity, a number Mr Budd is optimistic could increase by February if things continue the way they have.
“Queensland’s at 100%; in NSW, Frozen is running at 85% and every other venue is at 75%,” he said.
“It’s heading up into those numbers that make commercial theatre work.
“We also have some flexibility around the length of time that we run. If for some reason the capacity can’t move past 65%, there is an opportunity to run a little bit longer to satisfy audience demand and get tens of thousands of people through the door.”
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