Gowns, Glamour and Growing Up
The stage at QPAC’s Playhouse will have a touch of borrowed elegance when Queensland Theatre Company, in a last hurrah for the 2015 mainstage season, presents its first full-scale musical theatre work in years.
Ladies in Black is a glitzy celebration of gowns, glamour and growing up; a high-cultured frock-fest set in a prestigious 1950s department store where impeccably elegant ladies dress and wait upon their most discerning of customers – the salubrious housewives of Sydney’s North Shore.
The world premiere Ladies in Black is a recipient of the Arts Queensland Super Star Fund, a Queensland Government grant reserved for productions that feature high-profile, internationally renowned performers or contributors. Ladies in Black certainly fits that bill. Directed by Simon Phillips, a multiple Helpmann Award-winner and leading light of the Melbourne Theatre Company, the star-studded cast includes powerhouse performer Christen O’Leary, the multi-talented Carita Farrer Spencer, Jersey Boys sensation Bobby Fox and Brisbane’s The Voice star Naomi Price. Music and lyrics are from the pen of acclaimed singer/songwriter and Split Enz founding member Tim Finn, who in recent years has applied his creative fire to theatre projects. “Tim Finn and [playwright] Carolyn Burns have brought it buoyantly to life,” said Phillips who also worked with Finn in presenting the supernatural musical play Poor Boy for Melbourne Theatre Company in 2009. “This is the story of a young girl who gets a job in a thinly-disguised David Jones over the summer holidays and blooms from an apologetic caterpillar into a glorious butterfly.”
Ladies in Black is based on the light-hearted 1993 novel The Women in Black by Madelaine St John, a superb interpreter of the contemporary speech and manners of a society awkwardly yearning to appear sophisticated and European. Full of wit and wisdom, fashion and friendship, Ladies in Black illuminates the wondrous qualities of everyday people. The setting is the late 1950s when an adolescent Sydney is on the verge of shaking off its dowdiness, of becoming more cosmopolitan; the liberating 60s are just around the corner. Similarly, each of the characters we meet in Ladies in Black are confronting new pathways in their lives – facing independence, going to university, working for a living, marriage and motherhood, and discovering what it means to be a woman. The Cinderella of this musical fairytale is the bookish school-leaver Lisa (Sarah Morrison) who takes a job in the ladies’ frocks section of the F.G. Goodes department store during the frantic summer sales period. Lisa too has hopes and dreams of what lies ahead but in that summer of innocence, a world of possibilities opens up as she befriends the intriguing characters who make up the ladies’ frocks sales team – including her new guardian Magda (Christen O’Leary), an exotic European who is the mysterious mistress of the gowns.
Designer Gabriela Tylesova and her associates have their work cut out for them in the lead up to the opening night of Ladies in Black. A stunning array of more than 30 custom designed dresses and suits represents one of the biggest wardrobe projects for Queensland Theatre Company in recent years.
Ladies in Black
14 Nov – 6 Dec
Call 136 246 or visit www.queenslandtheatre.com.au
Tickets $33-$82 plus booking fee