A new and topical Australian musical chronicling the incredible life Mary MacKillop is premiering in Sydney and Melbourne in October to coincide with the canonisation of Australia’s first saint.
Written by newcomer Xavier Brouwer, MacKillop has a cast of 80 and a 25 piece live orchestra. Commencing in Sydney at the Seymour Centre with performances from October 1 to 9, the musical will then continue in Melbourne for three performances at The Besen Centre on 23 and 24 October.
Born in Melbourne in 1842 at the beginning of the Gold Rush, Mary MacKillop, played by Joanna Cole, goes on to become a teacher, a nun and the co-founder of Australia’s first religious order – the Sisters of St Joseph. The order quickly expands and within three years there are almost one hundred Sisters working with the poor and disadvantaged across Australia.
Mother Mary is then dramatically excommunicated before she travels to Rome and her work is personally blessed by Pope Pius IX. Upon returning to Australia, the Gold Rush is over and Mary MacKillop is greeted by poverty and economic depression abound. It is Mary MacKillop’s lifelong dedication and the work of the Sisters that transforms the nation.
On October 17th of this year Mary MacKillop will become Australia’s first official saint, when she is canonised by Pop Benedict XVI at St Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
MacKillop the musical has been almost ten years in the making and follows significant consultation between the Melbourne based composer Xavier Brouwer, a number of Josephite Sisters and Fr Paul Gardiner SJ, the former postulator of the cause of Mary MacKillop.
MacKillop utilises a number of musical styles including Scottish folk-tunes, songs from early colonial Australia and traditional indigenous music, thus highlighting Mary MacKillop’s family history, her colonial upbringing and her profound respect and honour for the first Australians.
“Mary MacKillop is a wonderful role model with a wonderful story filled with inspiration. Her life was filled with so much passion and energy that I couldn’t help but become drawn into her story,” said Writer and Composer, Xavier Brouwer. “Mary MacKillop has a fascinating blend of cultural influences, which has provided MacKillop the musical with an equally fascinating blend of instruments and sounds including Scottish folk-tunes, early colonial music and traditional indigenous music.”
With over twenty years experience as an opera singer, Joanna Cole, who plays the role of Mark MacKillop, has performed both in Australia and internationally. She appears regularly as a soloist with all the major Australian symphony orchestras and is no stranger to playing strong iconic Australian women. Cole played the role of Lindy Chamberlain in the 2002 Opera Australia world premiere production of Lindy.
“It is an honour to be able to play such an important person in Australia’s history,” said Joanna Cole. “This is truly a role of a life time.”
Producers Artes Christi are a Sydney based company and has a specific focus on supporting Catholic and Christian communities. Inspired by St Augustine’s profound reflection on Christ – Beauty ever ancient, ever new, Artes Christi strives to produce and promote creative work which is authentic, transcendent and inspiring for people of every age.
All profits from MacKillop will go towards the Mary MacKillop Canonisation National Appeal ensuring the production will also have an ongoing impact for those on the margins of society.
Composer Xavier Brouwer
Director Anthony McCarthy
Producer Kieran Walton
Conductor Timothy Chung
Photo: SMH