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Why Australia?

When did our love affair with Australia start? Certainly the movie industry had something to do with it with releases like Crocodile Dundee. Then came releases from the film industry in Australia, with a surprise penetration of the Oscars with Shine. Then came a new era of special effects with Matrix. Australian actor, Mel Gibson, has a top ranking with the American public. Presently, there are over one hundred book titles pertaining to Australia planned for release in late 2002 and beyond (see listing at

Several books have achieved best-selling status, such as, In a Sunburned Country, The Road From Coorain, Dirt Music, Batavia's Graveyard, Dingoes at Dinnertime. There are 309 popular music titles, numerous gifts (such as popular clothing items like the "convertible" pants), restaurants (Outback), and other products (Subaru's Outback car) captivating the American public about Australia. In 2000, the Omaha zoo brought in the Koala Bears - a hit display attracting an estimated increase of 10 to 15 percent in zoo visitation.

Articles pertaining to people in Australia are regularly included in the USA edition of Reader's Digest, e.g. Animal Attraction, Feb. 2002, and The Long Walk Home, July 2002, among others. The movie, Crocodile Hunter will be released in two weeks. Of course, the Olympics held in Sydney as the new millennium location, added to our already deepened interest. Tourism to Australia is at an all time high.

But most of all, it is our commonality. The settlers of Australia were the same folks that settled America. We share a common language, and large continental expanses of land. America also had penal colonies set up from England, but we soon became independent enough to refuse a continuance of the practice. Both of our countries had a native, indigenous population. Our development of interest in Native Americans and their culture, parallels the Auzzie's interest in their Native Australians, the Aborigines. We endured the same type of hardships - people searching for freedom and a new way of life.
Our coverage of terrorism on the popular program Nightline, took a break to cover and empathize with the wildfires of Australia.

The musical AUSTRALIA! is multi-leveled. It deals with historical fact - in terms of being educational. It has the emotional impact of a love story. It has the charm necessary for a child audience, but most of all - it deals with patriotism. What is patriotism and how does it develop? The children of Henry and Jenny are the ones who tell this story of loyalty by explaining to their parents that Australia is, "our country, our land, - where we were born." The American commonality that is shared with Australia could result in the musical becoming a resounding success!

Several news reports came out this year regarding the crisis of musical theater in regard to new work. Old musicals are being revived because there isn't enough new work being released. Andrew Lloyd Weber toured colleges and universities two years ago to encourage new play writes. Virtually nobody has stepped forth.

Musically, there is a broadening interest in global treatments. African rhythms, folk instruments, and unusual electronic sounds are being embraced. The musical Lion King incorporates dozens of percussion instruments. The sound score for AUSTRALIA! is original and, according to listeners, is intriguing and captivating. The musical Australia! employs the old with the new, an interesting mix that will be considered new and innovative. The first half of the production is done in a traditional order of music and dance - a Gilbert and Sulliven or Guys and Dolls type of approach.

The second half takes a departure into the Outback and its mystique - the "upside down world" of marsupial animals and bears in trees. Although the story, with its animals, will be very interesting to children, it presents a more thought provoking picture to adults. There is an underlying tension between nature, the Aborigine and the onslaught of western man. Lohr builds on the mystique of the dream time by incorporating a dream episode at the production's climax. Special effects are achieved through lighting, dance and music. The bright orange landscape that supports the faded green salt brush is unbelievable - a thousand miles without even one tree.

The cost of this production relative to other Broadway bound musicals, is low. This is because the set designs involve lighting as the primary theatrical emphasis. There is an atmosphere that establishes a sense of place achieved through light, movement, and smell (eucalyptus). The subject matter offers opportunities to involve businesses who are not normally contacted for sponsorship, such as Quantas Airlines, and the Outback chain of restaurants. There is the opportunity to recoup costs through sales of merchandise. The musical, Lion King, has a regular store of goodies that can be purchased from stuffed toys to clothing. The subject matter of Australia also offers this opportunity.

Copyright © 2003 C. Kelly Lohr